A hole in the sky

The clearest view of the WTC site, the future home of the 1776 ft Freedom Tower, "Ground Zero" to us tourists, is from the mezzanine level of the Winter Garden. At first sight it's just a complicated hole with a giant expanse of sky above it; both unusual and welcome in downtown Manhattan. Then you think about it, and realise that this is the place that changed the world, that ushered the twenty-first century and ruptured it from the last. Few histories will be written of our milieu that do not begin here, on Vesey and Trinity Place. So why don't I feel anything?

Because it's a hole in the ground, steadily being gorged with concrete. It was six and a half years ago on Tuesday that the towers came down, and it's still just that: an absence, a missing piece in a complex iron-and-glass puzzle. As someone who never really knew what stood there, the greatest ego in a town of egos, it's really impossible to find anything much, unless you want to imagine 3000 ghosts. I found that fruitless. It's just a construction site.

Then I did find something there, and I'm abandoning the second person because I don't know how many people would feel this way. But it seemed to me that a lot had been done in the last six-and-one-half years. The invaded space — alien to a nation whose soil was never before attacked — had been reclaimed by New York City. Ground Zero was, like most other corners in this vast, restless metropolis, just a construction site. It was all orange with yellow stripes: the sanguine stain beneath the rubble had been incorporated and subsumed. The monument was ready. Few other cities could do that in six years.

Of course the sanctity of the place is not lost. It's the one place in Manhattan where you must not give money to beggars, and no-one begs there. Bizarrely, nothing is for sale; the authorities have deemed it sacrilegious. But this is a city that looks to the future the same way it looks out upon the Atlantic — with a deep yearning — and after the vigil, New York inevitably renews.

The Winter Garden, Battery Park

Ground Zero

Joseph | 15 Mar 2008

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