In April of 2002, I was given an unbelievable opportunity to fly to New York to watch the recording of an event at Carnegie Hall. Arriving a full 24 hours before I needed to be somewhere, I arrived at my hotel, which overlooked Central Park, changed my shoes and decided to walk.
2 hours later, I found myself staring upward into the sky as two high powered beams of light stood before me. This… was Ground Zero.
The next day, I returned.
This is my account…
The ‘now’ eerie sounds of a commercial jetliner echo off the walls of buildings lining lower Manhattan. I look up, but see nothing. I quickly re-set my eyes on the path before me. All the while hoping no one reads my nervous mind. Surely, I cannot be the only one who feels this? But then again, I am just a visitor.
At what point on this journey did this consciousness begin? Not in Times Square, Greenwich Village, not even the outskirts of lower Manhattan. For that matter, not even as I landed at LaGuardia did it breed these thoughts.
As I move into the block surrounding Ground Zero, the outer noise of the city is now gone, just the immediate sounds fill my heart.
I stand in awe of the magnitude of this destruction.
Over 2,800 died here. Unbelief is now my companion.
The unbelievable is now the possible. Perhaps, that’s what causes the ‘now’ eerie echoes off the walls of buildings?
An American flag shrouds the badly burned face of a building left standing. A makeshift cross-erected, and memorials line the street. A police officer stands talking to a recovery worker as the officer directs authorized personnel. Steam rises from the streets and the sound of construction vehicles methodically move through this place.
I move past the crowds, some wiping tears off their face, others stand in silence, while some walk away shaking their heads. I hear voices in many languages. As I walked along the lines of onlookers, I wondered how many times I ‘heard‘ the same phrase spoken, yet unable to comprehend the language. Of course, I didn‘t need to. I could feel it. I could see it in their eyes. One soul to another.
While some pose to say ‘I was there’, a daddy stands in silence as he holds the hand of his little girl. His eyes were in unbelief, her eyes were curious.
As I look again to the buildings still standing, from the distant south comes the approach of a commercial jetliner. As it flies directly over the sight, the echoes I heard earlier grow silent. For a brief moment the sounds around me fade away and I am only left to stand and wonder. I wonder if I am the only one who notices this. I wonder if this plane is still a reminder to those who work 50 yards from where I am standing. Am I still the only one looking up?
As the plane disappears in the distance, I am brought back to the faces that surround me, as well as those who would have… if only this were 7 months earlier.
As I stand here in the midst of the voices of many, I hear the clicking of cameras taking pictures aimed at the remnants of many.
Perhaps these pictures will turn out to be a reflection not of this sight, but of that of the picture-taker. It is hard not to stand here and reflect.
Reflecting, I stand alone, but I am not alone as I know that He is here. He is here I am sure, collecting tears in a bottle.
I move up a few blocks, on one corner I see a touching makeshift memorial that lines the street. A block away street vendors sell postcards of that day’s terrifying events. People line up at both places. A group of young people wearing red shirts hand out flyers offering to pray with anyone who wants. There appears to be one taker.
Life carries a vibrant mix of emotions here. A clash between those that want to take something home and those that call this place home, between those who will not forget and those who are trying not to remember.
I slowly begin my trek back to West 57th. Through Greenwich Village, Times Square, and everything in between. Moving up-town the sounds of New York cab drivers begin filling the air as life moves back into the vibrancy of this place. All the while planes fly overhead. At what point on this journey did I lose my consciousness of this?
I am alone on this walk, but I am not alone. I know that my thoughts have echoed through thousands of minds since that day.
Walking past a clothing shop somewhere on Broadway the sun is now tucked under the clouds and rain begins to fall, this drought is coming to an end.
Perhaps, many droughts will come to an end.
Like two high powered beams of light shooting up towards the sky, I am sure many have stood here and called out to heaven. Many did not have that opportunity on that morning. But the opportunity was not lost. Throughout life God reveals Himself to us in many ways. In all of these ways, He stands with arms opened wide.
Somewhere over Pennsylvania sitting on a plane I write these thoughts. No tall buildings here, just an open field with tall trees. At least that is what I remember from TV. Same cries from the heart I am sure, but with different scenery. Does the scenery really matter anyway?
I am home now, and I can see His embrace in the most curious of places…
As I stand here holding the hand of my little girl, my eyes are thankful…and her eyes… well… there just plain curious.
written by. Gunnar Simonsen
* each year, I post this. We must never forget the many lives that were lost that morning.