Because the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers was last week, I was moved to revisit my trip to New York as a birthday treat from my family last year:
Sat., July 21, 2012 — Our first full day in New York was just that — full. Everywhere we went, we went as a pack, all 11 of us. The subway took us to our first major place of interest, the World Trade Center Memorial. A long line of visitors snaked their way for several blocks before us but soon we, too, were through security and into the square. It’s huge, covering eight acres of space. The plans call for a suitable museum, for instance, and additional towers besides the stately one already in place. A crane reaching to the top of the steel and glass structure says there is more to be done before it is cleared as the tallest building in New York City. Still, it’s a landmark, easy to spot from any venue in the surroundings.
The two pools built on the exact spots at which the twin towers once stood provided the most emotion-laden viewing for me. With ledges wide enough to hold the engraved names of the approximately 3,000 victims of 9/11, they create a kind of waterfall on the inner sides of the squares. The water was, to me, a metaphor for the endless tears shed over the atrocity. It drains into a smaller square in the centre, and again I felt it speaks of the gradual easing of the pain of those left behind.
We stood silently for a moment before moving on to a slightly wizened kind of tree close by where people were gathering. That tree is the only one that stayed alive after the rampage that killed all other growth in the vicinity. It was removed and nurtured back to relative health elsewhere, then replanted at the memorial site and anchored down with cables. Appropriately, it has been named ‘The Survivor Tree.’
We had heard about the importance of St. Paul’s Chapel and resolved to walk there before lunch.
"It’s not far, just a few blocks away," we were told.
Eventually we came upon the age-old cemetery on the grounds and the chapel behind it.
A leaflet told us that: "St. Paul’s Chapel served as a relief mission for recovery workers at Ground Zero. Over 14,000 volunteers worked in 12-hour shifts to provide solace, comfort, and care for 2,000 workers each day. It became the spiritual home of Ground Zero."
It is easy to see how comforting this place was and still is, especially to the surviving families.
All around the rooms there are little shrines with some personal memorabilia, some handwritten notes, some articles of clothing. "Litter of the heart," writes poet J. Chester Johnson in a tribute.
The fireman’s helmet, the policeman’s boots, the letter from a young lad to his father telling him how he never thought of him as special until he found out what a hero he was on that fateful day.
Now, he writes, he wants to work hard and live for others the way his daddy did. Such are the positive results of the massacre, until one remembers there are far more humane ways to inspire them.
Anne Yanchyshyn is a community correspondent for St. Vital.