World Trade Center

I saw the World Trade Center site today.

It was raining sugar crystal sized drops at machine gun pace, but New York seemed at a standstill. Lower Manhattan, with its towering steel and glass casting shadows on old high-rises, was like a time warp — a frame between a past when everything looked possible and a present when everything looks still.

The World Trade Center is a vast site of nothingness, dust and scaffolding. I peered through the grates by the subway into the pit, and I tried to see what was not there. I stared and stared, moving my eyes from the sharpie scribbles on the gray poles (“God heal this land”) to where the towers stood. No matter how much I tried, I could not see anything but an absence — an absence that left me numb. I closed my eyes and imagined the towers, saw them falling and I cringed my teeth. I remember those images and what they told me about the state of the world, the fear they caused and the puzzlement they brought with.

I opened my eyes but I couldn’t see that in front of me. All I saw was absence.

The people on the sidewalk were busy taking pictures and filming, as if they had to capture not the memory of a tragedy, but the service they are paying to it by being there. Their photos couldn’t show more than an absence, could they? Could they be more than just an addition to the New York trip photo album, which also includes shots of the Wall Street sign and Rockefeller Plaza?

There is a debate these days about what to build in place of the World Trade Center complex — a museum to freedom or just a memorial. I didn’t have a position on the debate and after visiting the site, I am even more neutral.

All I can ask for is that when those grates fall to unveil a replacement, I want the absence to fall with them.

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