WTC Station revisited

It had been ten years since I set foot in the WTC train station. To say a lot had happen since 1999 to New York is a grotesque understatement. I found myself taking the PATH train to the WTC station so to avoid the jubilant frenzy of midtown Manhattan. I had arrived at Penn Station regularly over the course of the year and found it hadn’t changed a bit. The Hudson News stores were comfortably seated where they always were. The coffee in the deli’s still tasted better than any coffee I have ever tasted. The gift shops, floral stand up by the steps leading down to the LIRR station were all as I remembered it. Somehow seeing things had not changed made the world seem safer and comfortable.

The scene in Penn Station was much the way the WTC station was the last time I had seen it. The walkway out of the PATH station looked like every single hallway you would find in your average good old American mall. Somehow, the lighting under the WTC looked different. A warm yellow filled the underground and this yellowish look blunted the florescent gleam coming from the stores. These stores sold everything from clothes, books, shoes, and of course souvenirs. Looking back, it seemed a miracle that these businesses didn’t go under considering the state of the hallway during rush hour. They all lined the walls as swarms of commuters rushed the walkway as fast as they could to the escalators. And these were not just any escalators, these were massive escalators that seemed to stretch 50 yards into the sky. And the sky is what you saw too when you approached the lobby of the WTC. The massive windows brought in more daylight than perhaps the average
early morning commuter cared to see but they were a welcome sight. I never was conscious of the size of the buildings above my head when I was in the lobby. I only ever remembered the plaza out front, and the bushes that lined the outside entrance into the subway system. The sun seemed to shine regularly back in 1998 and 1999 when I made this trip everyday from New Brunswick New Jersey.

The sun was not shining on New Years Eve 2009; my return to the WTC station. I made this return trip by memory. My mind was calling up what I learned from ‘98/‘99, but these thoughts made it feel overwhelming.

The PATH trains, like the NJ Transit trains never changed, Newark station and hadn’t changed but my destination, the WTC station had changed. As the PATH train lazily lumbered along northenr New Jersey with a handful of passengers staring blankly into the gray landscape passing by. The wires were sticking out of all of our ears and our expressions all looked much how I was beginning to feel, uncomfrtable. THe train finally submerged under the Hudson into the tunnel. Slowly the train rolled on then it began to slow down even further. My ears hadn’t popped before it became apparent the WTC station was close; a hole in the wall revealing debris and construction lights passed by. THen more debris and more flood lights. Then more shattered debris off in the distance as the train approached the platform.

GOne were the shops, gone were, the soft yellow lights, the lenolium tiled floor was even gone. All of this was replaced with wooden planked walls stretching 25 feet up, blocking the sight of God knows what behind them. The ceiling overhead wasn’t low to conserve space, instead it was a 100’ high metal ceiling with poles serving as support, and with florescent flood lights attached contributing to the cold atmosphere.

The few of us who walked the hallway knew what happened here and we were all quiet. The only thing that survived 9/11 were those damned escalators too. They still stretched 50 yards toward the sky; they still made me lean forward; but you didn’t see the sky approaching. Instead you saw a nightmarishly designed ceiling approaching. This ceiling was set low toward the ground and it led straight onto the sidewalk. Gone was the plaza, instead you can see plywood again blocking the average passer by from seeing what can only be described as a graveyard.

And the sun was not shining on New Years Eve, instead the clouds, air temperature and cold misty rain couldn’t have made it all feel less inviting. Gone seemed to even be the sun from my memories of the place. When you are there, you have to wonder if the smoke, fire and then the dust from 9/11 made it impossible to see sunlight at Ground Zero ever again.
This rememberance flooded my mind today because the WTC site has made it into the local news twice. First, 48 bone fragments, some no larger than a fingernail were discovered in the transported debris from the World Trade Center. The second story involves a Manhattan community board’s vote to go ahead with a project which will turn a 13-story building over looking Ground Zero into an Islamic Cultural Center and Mosque. The American Imam, Feisal_Abdul_Rauf
who is the leading spokesman for this project wishes the buildings commencement would take place on 9/11/2011.

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