I have had quite a few requests from friends to repost this...thanks to those of you who already read it and responded!
Date: 15 Sep 2001 1:31 AM GMT
Author: Rebecca Pierce
My experience at ground zero 48 hours after...
Thursday night my daughter called me at work and suggested we drive to look at the altered NYC
skyline and pray for the victims of the WTC disaster. She and I simply intended to catch a glimpse from the highway, but
something kept us moving forward.
We found ourselves and a handful of straggling pilgrims heading towards the Lincoln Tunnel. Check
points had been set up at the entrance, we were waved on through. I didn't feel comfortable or safe
but we couldn't turn back and allowed the tunnel to lead us into the broken heart of NYC.
Driving slowly down half empty streets we saw clumps of people on every corner wearing protective
masks over mouths but unable to hide the tears in their eyes.
We parked our car on 14th street feeling like intruders for a moment. But we were there to participate
in this late night wake, to pay our respects to a city that lost sister towers, and to morn the loss of
children, parents, lovers and friends.
We walked about twenty blocks and met up with another armed road block. I dug around my bag
unnecessarily for change as good samaritans, the phone company, had suspended charges and calls were free.
We rang a close friend of my daughters who worked a few blocks away from the WTC. Moments later we were met
by an escort and made our way down empty streets to a cozy restaurant tucked under an awning proclaiming in Italian
'The Sweet Life'.
Thursday night generally promised a full house and satisfied patrons popping corks in celebration
who's tips were always generous. Tonight our friend waited on a handful of tables with quiet grace and
just a touch of 'gentle mother' in his voice as he asked if there was anything else he could do to make the few gathered
there more comfortable.
We were seated by the window with a perfect view of the quaint city street. We thought about how the
street would have to adjust to late afternoon sun, having for years been shaded by one of the WTC
Wandering down the street, a bone tired off duty rescue team paused for a moment at the 'Tonight's
Specials' menu still reading September 11th, somehow forgotten on the sidewalk. They glanced at us sitting
like mannequins in a store front window still dressed for a day in the office, then down at their boots and
hesitated for a moment. But our friend with warm smile and raised pint of cold beer was a welcome they could not
After the comfort of a thick steak, grilled potatoes piled a mile high they eased back and enjoyed great
mugs of steaming coffee. A short time later they pushed off with grateful smiles and our good wishes.
We last saw them trudging down the street towards an open sanctuary that offered hot showers, a mat on the floor
and the promise of sleep.
The hour was late so with hugs all around we too said our good byes. As we left our friend handed us
crisp linen napkins snatched off a freshly set table for protection against the soot still clinging to the
warm night air.
We made our way down to Church and Canal Street AKA 'ground zero'. Raw news footage paled in
comparison to what we saw.
We heard the deafening rumble of trucks holding tons of cement and steel twisting their way towards
the edge of the city on their way out of town. A steady stream of flatbeds acting as pallbearers carried
off on their backs empty shells and remains of yesterdays leather trimmed symbols of success.
The occasional scream of a siren was welcomed as a sound of hope. Perhaps a sign of life had been
found. Desperate parents held up photos of their missing in one hand and offered bottled water with the other,
careful to step out of the way of fresh recruits clutching empty buckets and shining flashlights heading towards
the smoking rubble.
The wind changed course and for a moment the air was clear, but it was still hard to breath. The sense
of urgency so heavy around us was almost suffocating. There was no was shouting for revenge, no
anger or hate in the somber faces we encountered, just sadness. For this was not only a battle ground
but a holy place.
Well after midnight rolling thunder and lightning streaking across the sky prompted us to head home.
Kristina stopped at a make shift memorial along side a darkened church to light a candle that a stray
raindrop had put out. The left over meal intended for her brother at home she affectionately placed in
the grateful hands of a homeless man. It was accepted with a shout of cheer and those less fortunate
gathered around this one lucky man!
It seemed as though we were walking out of a CS Lewis inspired magic wardrobe as with every step we
took we left behind a strange world within a world and soon were brushing against sites and sounds
familiar. People rushing about darting in and out of raindrops. Cabbies favored free rides to fireman
over fare paying customers. No one complained.
On our way out of the city, the rain came down in buckets, would this be a blessing and help put out
fires, or make the efforts more difficult.
We put on the radio and listened to reporters again and again describing the scene. We listened now
with new understanding.
This night was both a haunting and sobering experience that brought us closer together as mother and
daughter. Kristina will keep this experience to herself for now, but promises to speak of this night
someday to future generations and in so doing keep the memory alive of the day the world was
changed for ever, September 11, 2001.