Ground Zero

Posted by mwallach on May 6, 2011 in New Yorkers |

Dear That’s Life,

To be honest, I was not sure what made me go.

Something spoke to me today as the world awoke to hear the news that Osama bin Laden was dead and I felt oddly drawn to visit Ground Zero. Remembering the morning of September 11th, how my husband and I listened to his radio as his fellow Hatzolah members screamed for help, trapped in a parking garage at the World Trade Center having rushed to the scene. It is nothing short of a miracle that they all returned to their families. However, for all of those first responders, innocent bystanders and people who just went to work on that fateful day never to return home, I felt the need to go, pay my respects and share in the relief of my fellow Americans and New Yorkers that the face of all that is evil was finally gone.

I am not sure what I thought would be going on at Ground Zero once I got there. It was much quieter than I had expected. It was busy, but was not the celebration of sorts I anticipated it would be. I thought people would still be cheering and carrying on, but they weren’t. People were contemplative, looking around, taking it in and what it all symbolized, as if the scene before them meant more today than before. People lost their lives there and while last night may have been when people cheered in the streets, it was day time and cooler heads prevailed. The heavy police presence did not hurt.

I walked around, listened to what people were saying and noticed what they tended to photograph. I stood in the World Financial Center, resting against the windows to get a good view. A prime location, I could not understand why this space near the windows was not taken. It quickly became apparent as a man stood close by, praying. His prayers must have annoyed those who had previously stood next to him, and it certainly raised the curiosity of others near by, but it did not bother me at all. He was chanting rather than praying, the sound of his voice rather soothing, although the language he spoke was one I had never heard. I, too, began to pray, wondering if he and I were praying for the same things. I hoped we were. I wondered what the photographer who photographed us together mid-prayer was thinking as well.

I wish I could tell you that something miraculous happened today while I was there, that people were laughing or crying, gaining closure with the announcement of last night’s events, but that was not what I saw. Unsure myself as to what drew me to Ground Zero today in the first place, I felt there was a story to tell and that it was there, although I had no idea what it was nor what it was trying to say.

By no means do I believe that all evil was eradicated from this earth with the death of one madman. As someone said today, bin Laden’s demise is a comma in this story, not a period. However, as I watched the construction crews continue their work as if today was any other day, despite the magnitude of their project and the significance of their work, I saw that people were simply living their lives. The narrative has yet to be written but its events continue to unfold. I might not have realized it until right now, but the story being told is just that: the act of living and moving forward. And no where can it better be seen than there, at Ground Zero.


As seen in the South Shore Standard May ’11


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