Today was wet and rainy. Since it was the Friday before Labor day I'd be getting out early from work early. So I decided
it would be a great day to go to a mall to do some shopping. In order to avoid the traffic, I chose the Pavonia/Newport mall
which is accessible by train.
In Newark I left the NJTransit train to catch the Path train. As I stood in front of the turnstiles a wave of anxiety
gripped me. It was the same anxiety I had felt the first time I boarded a NJTransit train last September after 9/11. Anxiety
over having to see the empty skyline, the smoking Pile in the distance. But I don't react anymore when I pass by on NJTransit.
Why did I feel like this approaching a Path train ride?
I realized that I hadn't ridden the Path trains since 9/11. My last ride was a few weeks prior to that date and for the
exact same reason: To go to the Mall! Was this the reason for my anxiety. I didn't know. I put my money in, went through the
turnstile and boarded the train.
As I sat there I glanced up to the route diagram above the door. An overwhelming wave of sadness washed over me. The
Path train route used to be like an X - One side went from Hoboken to the WTC. The other side went from Newark to 33rd St.
Manhattan. They crossed at Pavonia/Newport in the center. Now the diagram looked like a stick figure with one of its legs
chopped off. No trains went through Exchange Place or to the WTC. The whole line was eliminated, erased from this map.
As the train pulled out of the station, my anxiety was now combined with sadness. I got out of my seat to stand and look
out the doors at the skyline. That's when the ghosts of a ride past, one I never took, yet could have taken, entered my mind.
A terror gripped me I could not explain, until the train came to the point where the Towers would have been visible. Then
I knew what I was 'seeing'.
I had been a Path commuter for many years. As late as 2000 I took it each morning to the WTC. Each day I'd be crammed
into those cars with hundreds of other commuters. Some mornings I would be lucky and get a seat. Others would find me standing.
Not intolerable if I could get next to a door. Then for the 20 or so minutes I could lean on it and look out. Look out to
see the wetlands of NJ and the NYC skyline in the distance.
So as I was standing there, leaning against the door as I had done hundreds of times before, I realized what was happening.
My mind was playing a scenario from the 17 minutes of that morning of terror. It was showing me what it would have been
like to have been a commuter on one of those trains to hell. Someone standing near the door would have let out a gasp as the
smoking towers came in to view. Another person would have shouted "my God they are on fire". People would have stood
up from their seats to try to get a glimpse. Someone with a radio might have yelled "They said a plane has smashed into the
North Tower". And fear would have gripped everyone. For they were headed into the eye of the storm.
The Towers disappear from view as one approaches the Journal Square Station. A few hundred yards afterward the train
enters the tunnel. For the first trainload of commuters to witness the first Tower burning, they perhaps thought, like all
others watching elsewhere, that the Tower would withstand the onslaught. But train after train would witness a worse scenario.
What would await them at the end of the ride?
Can you imagine such fear. On this ride I was engulfed in it. There were no Towers, there was no smoke, and there were
few people in this car. Yet I wanted to shout "can you see it? They are burning!!!". But I just stood there and cried, my
face pressed against the glass of the door.
Fortunately for all those commuters, only the first few trains continued on to the WTC. The rest were rerouted and then
all service halted. No path commuter lives were lost. Yes, NJTransit commuters were also treated to this show out of Dante's
Inferno. But their destination was not to its epicenter.
When the train stopped at Journal Square I sat down. My anxiety and terror had vanished. Pre 9/11 I'd have to change
from the WTC line to the 33Rd St line in order to get to Pavonia/Newport. The realization that I didn't have to
change trains today finally plunked me back into the present.
Yes, the train doesn't stop there anymore. But someday it will. The Path has plans to open a new station to replace the
lost WTC one. They say it should be complete in about 3 years. And what world will we see when exit that station? What will
be there on Ground Zero? Will anymore disasters alter our skylines and our lives? Like a train ride, we'll just have to keep
moving and pray there is no derailment around the bend.
c 2002 Leona M Seufert