Monday, June 16, 2008

Me N The City: Part 9 – Ya'll Ready For This?

I’m no stranger to subway rides… I’ve been on plenty of them in Chicago and even D.C. But you always hear stories about NYC subways. Luckily for us, this ride was pretty uneventful and we even got a seat most of the way to our stop. There was no real worry about missing the stop we needed – it was the last one. So that was handy. We decided we’d hop off, find someplace to eat nearby and then find Century 21.

As the subway car rattled and jolted on, I studied the map of stops more out of curiosity/something to do than anything else. As I looked at our stop it finally hit me – the World Trade Center. We were going to Ground Zero. I don’t know how that really escaped me before, but I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it. I’ve never been one to want to visit sites such as these. In fact, I’m not even a big fan of cemeteries. If the person (or incident) is that important to me, I’d prefer to remember them as I want to – not as they ended up. I got that way as a result of attending the funeral of a lifelong friend when we were seniors in high school. The open casket images haunted me for months after.

When I was 13, we moved from my childhood home. A few months later, the new owner called to tell my parents we had some mail delivered there. I begged my mom to let me go with her so I could see the house one last time. She gently told me “I’d rather you remember the house the way it was when you knew it, not the way she has it now. It’s very changed and I think you’d be sad to see it that way.” I didn’t understand that at the time, but I do now. And she was right. Remembering is good – reliving is not.

But – there was no getting around it. The subway stop and the store were literally right across the street from the site. So as the subway slid to a jerky stop I took a breath, steeled myself and hopped off onto the platform. We emerged into the sunshine and the first thing we saw was a beautiful old church and churchyard – complete with huge trees - within a wrought iron fence. It looked so out of place and storybook compared with the bustling concrete and metal city around it. As we looked to the right however it was there, astounding in its absence, its void. Now of course, so many years later, all the photos, fliers, flags, and handwritten messages are gone. It actually looks much like any big-city construction site. There was a chain-link gate linking to a fence of plywood and more chain link. Sarah and I walked to the gate with the few other visitors and looked inside. I tried to decide if taking a photo would be ok. I wasn’t even sure what I would be taking a photo *of* really. There was nothing left that would indicate this is where arguably the largest US tragedy in history had occurred. But I felt compelled so I quietly slipped out my camera and snapped a photo with my lens through the chain link. After a few more quiet moments I had seen enough. I had enough time to quietly remember; I did not want to relive.

Sarah and I looked at each other and glanced around … across the street a few yards away was the Stage Door Deli. That sounded like lunch to me. We headed in and were treated to one of the largest menus I’ve ever seen in my life. Everything from a raw veggie bowl to a full lasagna dinner. We selected a couple of sandwiches, decided to split a yummy looking cupcake and settled down to refocus on our mission. We had seen the blazing red letters on the large stone building just a block away. Century 21. We were almost there…

…to be continued.

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