I spent this past week with my mother in New York City. I saw the carnage and devastation that has been left behind. My heart was broken at the mere sight of this once great city now in shambles. It is nearly too much to see a city in despair, a wound that can never be healed. It is nearly too hard to walk the city in my eyes, but it is a journey that needs to be made.
As you step into the city you find memorials everywhere. Tributes to fallen heroes are on every street you walk. Out of the corner of your eye you see a child’s hand-print and a simple message that reads: “I’m alive because I was late.” You see soldiers, police, and firefighters all over the city along with people shaking their hands trying to fight off tears saying “Thank you.” Their gratitude warms your heart, but you avert your eyes and continue on your heart-shattering journey.
Heading towards ground zero you immediately feel a change in atmosphere. The air has become bitter and sadness abounds. Crossing the street you step on a metal plate covering the extensive damage caused by flying debris. Gray dust covers everything and numerous water trucks drive by trying to rinse it off, almost as if they are trying to remove a scar. But all they can accomplish is creating a depressing gray muck that seems to be an embodiment of the city’s sadness. You notice the air is now very difficult to breathe, difficult because it is saturated with soot and particles of glass, concrete, and corpses. Steam rises through vents all over Manhattan. Not thinking, you step through the steam and are overwhelmed by the smell of the hundreds of rotting bodies that have yet to be discovered. The closer you come to ground zero the thicker the smell of death becomes and you cannot help but cough it up.
You walk on in a kind of daze and find yourself staring at a wall of missing persons flyers complete with color photographs. The flyers are all different and all say “Last seen on September 11…” on some unfortunate floor of the World Trade Center. You suddenly realize that all these missing people are lost somewhere in that rubble piled so high that in reality is not as far off as you think. The tears flow freely from your eyes and nothing in your power can stop them or change history for the better.
You find the city has a kind of hopelessness about it, but at the same time a strange sense of perseverance. It is undoubtable that there is a hole that can never be filled and crossing the harbor will never be the same. It will never be the same because cranes and floodlights cannot replace those two towering giants or all the life that was lost in them. You think of all those trapped people screaming in their last breaths, and hope that this is all a bad dream that you will soon wake from.