In Remembrance Of Those Who Fell...
I took this photo - this is a compilation, actually ... the area was too wide to capture in just one frame - in February 2002. See the tallest, narrow building in the distance, still shrouded in smoke and dust in the picture? Well, just beyond that is where the Twin Towers stood. The high fence was/is - not sure at this time - temporary to keep both foot and vehicular traffic away, and the open gates that day were allowing dump trucks to come and go as needed.
It was cold ... icy, frigid cold. My mother had called and asked if Cheryl and I wanted to come back home - from Ohio to New York, no less - because she wanted to go to see Ground Zero - aka "The Hole".
We drove back, and I remember when we hit the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, I looked to our left, and the twist I felt in the pit of my gut ... to look over, and see the missing
Towers. It was like New York City had the two front teeth knocked out of her smile. I could see Lady Liberty out in the harbor, and scanning in toward shore ... they - the Towers - were gone. It is quite a distance from World Trade Plaza to the bridge we were crossing - well ... sitting in traffic as we were crossing - but you could smell the burning that occurred for days and weeks following 9/11.
That part of the trip got worse the day we headed from Long Island into the city. As we were driving along Riverside Drive, and being directed by an overworked Traffic Police force, the closer we got, the more of the smell would hit. It came in waves ... burning everything
, then a choking musty dust smell, the smell of burnt metal and electrical. We finally found a parking area, then walked along Broadway to get to where the end of the line where others were standing and waiting for the chance to make it to the ramp where the overlook was set up to view the crime scene ... the kill zone.
All along the walk there were memorials; flags, mementos, and photos of missing loved ones that had been affixed to the chain link fencing that seemed to be everywhere along the sidewalks of Broadway. The combination of heartfelt poems of the heartsick, and the biting cold brought tears to the eyes of everyone walking along that route. From where we were, you could look across past the fencing, and see the area of destruction, and the newly erected viewing platform ... the goal of many who were there that day.
It was while standing across from the area in the photo that the cold breeze shifted, and my nose once again got the full blast of the "new" smells of the city that I love, the city me and my buddies would cruise into on a weekend - hit me. The smells of burning everything ... steel, electric, wood, and then the unmistakable smell of decaying flesh ... five months later
. That's when being there - even that far away from the actual site itself - hit me ... hard! Doing what I do as a Taxidermist, I immediately recognized the smell of death. This is an experience I never want to repeat.
We never did make it the many blocks it took to get to the actual viewing area. Like I said, it was cold, really cold
, and my mother was having a very hard time standing in that weather. As a Polio survivor, she has her physical limits and that day she was trying to reach past them. After about three hours of standing in the windy cold, we decided to call it a day. We met many nice people, all united by the commonality of what had happened five months prior. Those that helped prop my mother up, those that Cheryl and I helped try and get out of the wind. Those who brought out hot coffee for everyone. It was a time to unite, and we did.
I hope that tomorrows dedication of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, will give the souls of those who lost their lives just doing their daily routine, those of the heroes that rushed in while others were rushing out, that they are at rest and at peace. I salute all the ordinary and extraordinary individuals of the World Trade Plaza, their families, and my family of New Yorkers who still live, work, thrive and survive in "The City That Never Sleeps", on their day of remembrance. You are all in our thoughts.