The new Path train station opens
Daily, thousands of people from NJ travel to lower Manhattan to work, tour, or attend events. The easiest access to this
area south of Canal Street had been by a train that went under the Hudson River, connecting NJ with NYC. In 2001, when the
towers collapsed, the train station of the Port Authority of NY & NJ's transit system (commonly referred to as PATH) was
destroyed, buried beneath tons of rubble.
For the last 2 years, access from NJ to lower Manhattan was limited
to either taking a ferry from the NJ waterfront, or taking a railroad train into Penn Station in mid-Manhattan and then a
subway south. Even though the number of people now working in the lower Manhattan area had been decimated through the
loss of the WTC, there remained a need for easier access if this area were ever to be revitalized. The Port Authority made
it a top priority to rebuild the WTC Path station as quickly as possible. In November of 2003 a new train station opened on
the site of the one that had been destroyed.
In the 70's the original decades old Trans Hudson Tube station was torn down to build the WTC complex. This station was
now totally underground and accessible only by many levels of escalators. The new 2003 station is totally different.
I went down on a weekend to tour it shortly after it opened. From the few photos presented by the media, I really didn't
know what to expect, except that it would be close to Ground Zero. What I encountered was, for me, a heart wrenching experience.
Exiting the N/R subway line, it was a deja veu experience. The exit to what had been the WTC shopping plaza had been
closed up for all this time. Now, once again you could leave the subway and walk right through those entryways. However, that's
where all similarity ended. I exited onto a huge plaza whose open walls looked right out on to Ground Zero. The station was
a steel shell that had a roof and pillars but no walls. The day was cold and windy and the wind blew unmercifully through
This plaza (right beneath street level) was what I will dub, the second level. As I walked around I noticed the walls
(there were walls on the Broadway side from the original foundation of the WTC complex) had huge black and white prints of
lower Manhattan. It was a history of the architecture and construction of that area. And nowhere, yes nowhere, could I find
any history of the Towers' construction! How sad. They defined this area for over almost three decades and didn't merit even
The next eerie thing I noticed was the entrance to the E train. It as the original one, floor, doors and all. And on
one of the pillars was a plaque stating that fact. Shivers ran down my spine.
As I moved on I saw that the open spaces facing Ground Zero had protective netting stretched across them from pillar
to pillar. On that netting were written sayings and quotes from famous people (and infamous mayors!) about NYC. The lower
half had wire fencing (about the height of a person). On a few of these were tucked flowers! That was when it became evident
to me that many of the people who had come to the station were more interested in the close up view of Ground Zero, than in
taking the Path train! People were everywhere, pressing against the fencing, taking photos, someone was crying.
I then proceeded to descend the huge bank of escalators. As I was carried many feet lower to bedrock, I had flashbacks
to when I used to commute and take the same descending escalators. Same number going down and up, same depth of descent. And
the same "third level" area where you got off and walked a number of feet before taking the stairs to the turnstile level
where you paid your fare. And shockingly, at the bottom of those stairs, on the fourth level was a Hudson News stand, exactly
where it had been pre 9/11!
Walking around the turnstile area, I noticed it too was all open and the sides were draped with those nettings that had
quotes on them. One was just too ironic: "As for New York City, it is a place apart. There is not a match in any other country
in the world," Pearl Buck. The view that you could see right through it was Ground Zero's bareness. Indeed, no where else
in the world is there a match for NYC's "Ground Zero."
Traversing Ground Zero
Now came the part of my "tour" that was to be truly heart wrenching. I decided to take a train to NJ's Exchange Place
station, the next on the Path line, and then return. The train platform area once again had that familiar yet different look
and feel to it. Where the destroyed one was dark, always warm, in this one the sun shone through and the wind blasted its
cold air. This was also bedrock level, truly Ground Zero. And the pillars each had the old plaques reading "WTC." I shivered
from more than the wind. I was on sacred ground.
The trip to Exchange place, going under the Hudson River, was uneventful. I exited the train and took the next one back.
Going in to the first car, I wanted the best seat for a show I knew should not be missed.
A brief bit of explanation is required. The trains exit the WTC area straight into the Hudson tunnel. However, because
the trains use 2 tunnels to traverse under the Hudson, the returning one comes out at a different location and makes a loop
around what is now Ground Zero. (It was that way ever since the "Tubes" had been built: one out, one in, loop around to the
station on the return trip). So on the return I was expecting the closest view of Ground Zero that anyone could get.
When the train exited the tunnel, daylight slammed into my eyes. I blinked and then noticed the slurry wall. Right outside
the train window. And as we curved around, tilting, chugging, into the station, I realized we had just ridden over the footprint
of the South Tower. At that moment I felt like I had taken a roller coaster ride through hell.