Unsolicited Thoughts on 9/11April 16th, 2011 by Chris Henry
Listening to reporter Steve Gardner conduct a phone interview last week for a story on the 9/11 memorial planned at Bremerton’s Evergreen Park reminded me of a visit I made to New York City about a month after the destruction of the World Trade Center.
Kitsap’s memorial to those who died in the terrorist attacks of
September 11th will feature two steel beams from New York’s World
Trade Center, pieces of stone from the Pentagon and some
representation of the crash in Pennsylvania, said Dave Fergus of
Rice Fergus Miller Architects. Fergus said he will have rough
designs ready sometime in May. Organizers, who have raised about
$80,000, hope to have the
memorial completed groundbreaking
on the memorial by this Sept. 11, the 10th anniversary of the
Visitors will be able to touch the beams. “There’s something very emotional about that that puts you in that place,” Fergus said. “As a visitor you become part of the memorial.”
In October, when we wrote about the Kitsap 9/11 Memorial Project committee’s plans for a site featuring wreckage from the WTC, a heated discussion ensued among readers about whether it is appropriate to display the beams. They seem to symbolize different things to different people: a sacred reminder of a nation united in grief, an ugly reminder of despicable acts or nothing at all.
Here, for what it’s worth, is what I think of when I look at the beams, as I have when they were on display at the Kitsap County Fair.
I grew up outside New York City, and often went back to visit my mom.
I brought my oldest son to visit Granny when he was 13 (1997). Passing through NYC, we visited the World Trade Center on a Sunday, when it was almost deserted. We ran through the empty, snaking barrier maze and took a dizzying elevator ride up one of the Twin Towers.
The windows on the observation level of the South Tower were canted out, so we had the sensation of hanging above the criss-cross of city streets. The yellow taxis below looked like Matchbox cars. Higher than an airplane on take-off, we could see the city’s bridges. To the east was Long Island (where I grew up), to the north, Southern Connecticut, where my mother lived in an assisted living center.
I made another visit to my mom in October, 2001, about a month after the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. I’ve never been fond of flying, but I felt, as did many, that carrying on with my travel plans was an act of defiance against other would-be terrorists and an act of solidarity with other Americans. As the plane descended over New Jersey farmland, we got a glimpse of the NYC skyline, and all one could think was, “My God, they’re really gone.”
I met up with my sister in Grand Central Station, where photos
of the missing covered the hallways. Makeshift signs read, “Have
you seen … “ “She was wearing … “ “Cantor Fitzgerald employee …”
“Please call …”
We took a subway down to the lower end of Manhattan to view the
wreckage. The first thing I noticed on stepping up into the street
was bright sunlight and a gaping patch of sky where there should
have been a canyon wall of buildings. The WTC site, more than 15
blocks away, was closed off with barriers guarded by police
There were no strangers on the streets. Locals and out-of-towners alike gathered at the barrier, pulled by a morbid dread and something else, hard to put a finger on. It was far from a carnival atmosphere, but it wasn’t entirely somber. People chatted — where ‘ya from? — talked up the cop and snapped photos of the hole in the heart of the city. We were showing New York some love, and New Yorkers were tossing it right back.
We were together, mourning the dead, observing our nation’s monumental loss. We also were celebrating our strength. New York’s resilience was evident on city streets, where people walked (apparently) fearlessly, in the shops and cafes, where they ate and milled about as usual, and in the subway, where an elderly Chinese man played on a stringed instrument at rush hour, the music echoing sweetly in the cement cavern.
Here’s a picture of the Statue of Liberty, which was closed with
the heightened security. The boardwalk where the ferry to the
monument boards was another impromptu gathering place in the wake
of 9/11. The statue seemed so far away, but as we stood watching
the sun set, we struck up conversations with people we might never