Tunnel At the End of The Light
It was Memorial Day and I decided to go into NYC to visit with a friend and spend some time at the South Street Seaport.
I hadn't been there since last summer and wondered what if anything had changed since 9/11.
I ascended to Fulton St and looked around. As I headed east, I began to notice the street vendors. They were always a
fixture in that area, but today it was their wares that caught me off guard. On their tables were these photo albums, the
small kind that are just large enough to hold one photo per page in their cellophane sleeves. And the photos were of the WTC.
They were a pictorial collection of that horrible last hour in Sept. I leafed through one and was disgusted by what I saw.
It is one thing to sell pictures of the Towers when they stood tall and stately as part of the skyline, or of the empty skyline
with some patriotic wording written across. But this…As I proceeded further east there were vendors who sold individual
photos. At $3 a pop you could get images not only of the flaming, smoking towers but of the ash covered people running from
their collapse. At another table I picked up one of those albums and looked closely for a publisher. None. Some of the pictures
were grainy, like they had been scanned from a magazine, others were very familiar to me, AP photographs lifted off some Web
site. Now my disgust doubled. I asked the vendor who put these together and she said "independent photographers'. As I tossed
the book back onto the table, I said in a loud enough voice for all to hear, "some of those are poor copies and you are violating
But what could I do? I walked on to the South Street Seaport and decided to enjoy my afternoon. It was a nice couple
of hours and upon leaving the area decided to avoid Fulton street and all those vendors. But to get to the subway, I was heading
in the direction where once the Towers stood. As I walked this side street, I noticed how much more light was falling down
between the buildings. Now that 'wall' at the end of the street - the Towers - was missing. The reminders were everywhere.
I got to Broadway (I was going to take the Lexington line uptown to have dinner with a friend) when I decided to investigate
what was going on around Ground Zero. My last trip there was on Dec. 11. I had expected things would change. But not what
I encountered. It was as if time had reversed and I was back on the Broadway of pre 9/11. The stores were all open, people
were walking down the street in a normal fashion, gone were the tourists with their cameras, nothing even indicated that right
around the corner on the next street was a big gaping hole where the WTC once existed. The only reminder of that time that
I had once called the Mile of Tears, was St. Paul's and the memorials all around it. You could barely even see the viewing
platform unless you were right in front of it! True, in October when I had first visited, the barricades were up on Broadway
and the loss was only a month old. In Dec, the barricades had moved over to the west of Broadway but people were still making
memorials out of any wall surface around. There were also Christian youths handing out literature and asking if you would
like to join them in prayer for a lost loved one. Yes, most of the shops were open but the 'shop till you drop' atmosphere
hadn't yet returned. So should I now be thrilled that 5 ½ months later 'normalcy' had returned?
I turned a corner and walked down to the street that was now the true eastern perimeter of the 17 acre WTC site. It was
an empty pit. I did locate the crossbeam cross and took a few photos of that. Then as I turned to walk uptown and back to
the subway, I came across some vendors. And there, right across the street from 'sacred ground' they were selling those same
trashy photo albums! At that moment the biblical image of Jesus casting out the moneychangers in the temple, jumped into my
mind. I wanted nothing more than to go up to them and overturn their tables and set fire to their sacrilegious goods!
I knew I couldn't do that, or anything else to stop them. This is, after all, a 'free' country and they had their permits
to stand there and sell their wares. Wasn't it our then Mayor Guiliani and our President GW Bush, who both said, way back
last year, that we should return to 'normalcy'? And I suppose what could be more 'normal' for the streets of New York then
the selling of kitschy, trashy, tasteless items.
There is no more 'Mile of Tears'. There are few 'memorial walls' left. The streets have their shops open for business.
The Pile has been turned into a Pit. This week the city plans to close another chapter by holding a ceremony at Ground Zero
to put an end to the 'Recovery' phase. And down in the 'Pit' there is nothing left of the Towers. It is now 8 stories deep.
Where once no sunlight fell for 30 plus years, the sun now bakes the earth. And there, in the middle of this nothing, is an
opening to a tunnel. A tunnel that in all the wildest dreams of its original builders would never have pictured sunlight entering
it. It is the Path train tunnel. It ran deep within the belly of the WTC complex. It carried all those thousands of people
each day from across the river. It carried many of the final thousand who lost their lives on that horrible day. And today,
it sits, a gaping hole. A final reminder of how 9/11 changed so much we knew. As I stare at the tunnel that is at the end
of the light, I shiver knowing that one day it will be buried again. One day it will once again carry me and thousands of
others into lower Manhattan. And it will release us out onto…this…hollowed ground!
c 2002 Leona M Seufert