It’s been nine years since September 11th, 2001. I have never seen the World Trade Center. By the time I got to America, they were gone. I’m leaving New York today, and I don’t know when’s the next time I’ll be back. But I wrote this piece last summer about Ground Zero, and thought it would be appropriate to post it today.
It’s our last day in New York. I still remember the first time I saw this city with my dad, right this time after freshman year. But it’s my mum’s first time. Tired of walking, she insisted on getting three tickets for the open-top tour buses, so here we are, traffic wind in our faces, trundling down Manhattan. We pass the much-abused Wall Street bull, even now bearing a troop of tourists on his bronze back, and the tour guide directs our attention to the next attraction. “People come to New York and they want to see two things,” she says, “the Statue of Liberty and Ground Zero. If you want to see Ground Zero, get off at the next stop and turn right.” True to form, my mum feels she must not miss the site of the Twin Towers. So we get off the bus and pick our way towards the massive, grating construction site.
There is something peculiar about an attraction defined precisely by its absence. It’s been eight years since 9/11, and that date has not lost its vivid nearness – perhaps because the year has dropped off the end of the date, perhaps because, in the wake of all that’s happened since then, it is necessary for it to stay a fresh, open wound. Ground Zero does seem like a wound, a great gaping hole in the bristling forest of skyscrapers. Three years ago I had been shocked to see it was still a hole, the cardboard timeline of events posted on the wire fence somehow inadequate for the tourists coming to pay homage to the fallen towers. This time around it is still a hole, the construction dust, the grating sound of machines at work a constant from three years ago. Metal cranes heave and creak purposefully in the mess of earth and concrete behind the chain-link fence. A couple of enterprising people have set up booths selling little pamphlets about 9/11, the burning towers superimposed on the statue of liberty on the cover.