September 25, 2001--Ground Zero

The remains of the facade at ground zero, September 25, 2001.

After work I got together with a couple of friends to see up close the devastation that had been wrought in our city, so we headed down to the ground zero area, as close as we could get. We took a subway down to Fulton Street; from the moment the doors opened we could smell the burning. We could only get a couple of blocks away, and the view was impeded by nearby buildings. I noticed that the door to a store was open, and people were leaning in and taking photographs; it was a clothing store, and all of the merchandise was covered with gray dust. The devastation was about what I expected (I'm surprised that a large part of the base actually survived the collapse.); the most striking thing was what was missing, remembering how the World Trade Center dominated that part of town. The atmosphere was surreal, with barricades, national guard and other troops. It smelled a bit like Kilauea, a million matchsticks when the wind was in my face, though of course it was really the buildings and all they held. Disturbing, but then, we've been breathing a bit of this in for two weeks now.

I took the subway uptown with one of my friends. He had gotten a prescription (which he hadn't filled yet) for Cipro, in case of anthrax, and was talking about asking his doctor for one to get a hypo of Atrapine, to protect against nerve gas. The catch with Atrapine, he said, is that you take it when you haven't been nerve-gassed, the drug itself can kill you. It's amazing the sort of conversations we've been participating in, and overhearing, the unthinkable both thought and talked about, our shadows turned inside out. I'd been aware for years that New York was a likely target of a devastating terrorist attack, and many people I'd suggested this to thought I was being a bit of an alarmist. Now my own personal fears have entered the collective realm, and our shadow sides have been turned inside out.

I went up to Riverside Church to hear Thich Nhat Hanh, Paul Winter, Judy Collins, and others, in "an evening of prayer and healing", with a particular focus on dealing with our anger as it related to the situation. The subways were messed up, with the line changes and diversions and all, which "helped me get in touch with my anger". I got there late, then waited for 45 minutes and was turned away, for the church--which seats 2500--was filled up. The church claimed that the fire marshal said that allowing more people in would be "dangerous". Of course, someone responded that we live in dangerous times. The lady at the door told that indeed, our being denied admission was an opportunity for us to deal with our anger and resentment (easy for her to say!). Well, the flowers that I was going to drop at ground zero (but could not find a suitable place), and then was going to perhaps leave at the Thich Nhat Hanh thing, I've saved and put in a vase here in my apartment.

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