I love train stations. Especially the subway ones that have been decorated with tiles and mosaics. One of
the subway stations to get this treatment early in the 90's was the Cortland Street N/R line underpass by the WTC. The entire
underpass that connected the uptown to the downtown side of the platforms was covered in ceramics depicting the history of
lower Manhattan. This station was a bustling hub of activity pre 9/11. When I worked down in the Wall Street area I used it
many times to go to upper Manhattan after work.
When the Towers fell I thought that surely all that artwork had been destroyed. After all, it was underground,
right next to what was now Ground Zero. It couldn't have survived. In fact I posted in The Way It Was Part 1 photos I had
taken a year prior, to honor the work of the artist and show the world what was lost.
Last year, after more than a year of being closed the station reopened. Curious, I took the train down to
get a look. A new entrance had been created by the token booth where before you could exit to the WTC mall area. Then I thought
about the underpass. Was it there? What had become of the artwork? I hastily walked to where I remembered the platform stairs
to be located. They were there, accessible. I descended. What greeted me was beyond belief. Almost as if frozen in time, the
entire underpass was in tact. I looked around, examining the tiles. Not a scratch. I stood in the middle and cried. It was
like going back in time. I could see in my mind's eye the bustling crowds, coming and going from the mall. Then silence.
I looked around and tried to orient myself as to where the entrance had been. And why was there no damage.
Then I remembered that the underpass was accessible from the mall area only by a stairway that also held an escalator. There
was a door at the top and a door at the bottom. Obviously, that area had become the buffer zone for the destruction. Only
dust would have entered the underpass, no debris, nothing that could have damaged the artwork. And due to the fact that it
was on the perimeter and not directly under the mall area, the underpass would not have been buried by the towers' collapse. And then I noticed it: A wall of white tiles where the door to the stairway had existed. They matched perfectly
the older white tiles on either side, except they were shinier! I walked up and put my hand to that wall, knowing that just
beyond it was sacred ground.
Coming back to reality, I decided to take some more photos of the murals. Here they are for you to enjoy.
If you get to NYC and go to Ground Zero, do make this a stop. Your breath will be taken away, photos do not do it justice.
The token booth clerks will help you locate it.
I recently took a friend from out of town down to see it. She was amazed. And she too was overwhelmed when
I showed her the wall that had Ground Zero beyond it. But now it had a door. Or had it always been there and I just had forgotten?
(it was over a month since I had been there) I did a little 'forensic' snooping and found a lot of white dust on the mural's
tiles. Dust that obviously came from cutting the white tiles to make the doorway. I fell that in a way this doorway is symbolic
of what is happening around Ground Zero. Progress, moving away from the past, going toward a new future. I'm sure the Transit
Authority just created a storage space in back of that door. But I would also like to think that it is a doorway to what can
be, from a space that once was and survived.