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February, 2003

A Post Card From Ground Zero
By Jim Scanlon

I am sitting just across from New York's City Hall in a Starbuck's coffee house for the first time in my life, just two blocks from "Ground Zero", with my Mac laptop connected wirelessly to the internet for the first time. I have removed my hooded Peruvian alpaca jacket so I can work comfortably but although I have long underwear on, corduroy pants and a heavy, double knit Bolivian alpaca sweater it's so cold in this place I had to put on the woolen Norwegian ski cap I bought in Alaska.

I make a lot of stupid mistakes signing up for T-Mobile Inc. which provides the Starbuck's Wireless Hot Spot, and make several more mistakes before I got Mozilla, my open source browser, to do what I wanted to do and start drinking my first Starbuck's double latte, which is now ice cold, and notice that I too am cold.

The building I am in is at least a hundred years old with a cast iron facade encrusted in thick green paint, and a ceiling maybe 25 feet high, a kind of place I like. It was empty when I came in and is now crowded with men and women talking and waving their hands, heavily dressed for the cold weather outside and inside. Three gorgeous women behind me are talking in Russian and English, but I'm too busy to notice much. The reason the place is so cold is because thoughtless people keep leaving the front door open and the icy wind keeps blowing in. Tsk, tsk! Everyone suffers for the failings of a few.

The temperature outside was 8F at noon, which is 24s below freezing. The temperature hasn't gone above 32F for the entire month and probably won't for the remainder. It has been so warm during recent East Coast winters, that the cold seems exceptional, but this kind of weather is really "normal", and it brings back buried memories of working outside in the cold and snow. How was I able to do it?

There were no vendors around the periphery of "ground zero" and few, if any tourists, as there were last September when you had to walk in the street to move. Everything looked clean to me. All the buildings on the west side have been repaired and look strong and secure in the cold sunshine. You can actually walk across ground zero on Vesey Street where men and machines are quietly working away right on the surface. There are still scars on a few buildings on the north side but they will soon be gone.

You can walk on Liberty and Church Streets! It's a nice feeling to stroll on what was forbidden for well over a year. The big empty wreckage filled pit, long since cleaned up, is now filling up with orderly steel structures growing slowly up to street level. Downtown is beginning to look almost normal again!

Or, at lest that what I want to believe. Only one building, I think it's the Deutsche Bank, is still shrouded in somber black netting, as if still in mourning, but not because of 9/11 damage, a mold has grown over the walls of the interior and it may have to be torn down.

No large, or even small flags are blowing in the wind and only on the back side of the fence surrounding Saint Paul's Church are there offerings hung from, and heaped along, the steel bars. I went into the Winter Garden and it was warm and dazzling: new palm trees stood straight and tall, high above the gleaming marble floor and under the curved vaulted roof of greenhouse glass. Relaxed diners without heavy coats sipped drinks at tables in front of the recently reopened restaurants.

The various architectural models for the replacements of the twin towers were on display before small groups of alert, observant looking young men and women, many taking notes, and dressed as if for polar expeditions.

When I first saw the designs in the newspapers and on TV I thought they looked ridiculous, but here gazing at the models I got a totally different impression. One, the design of Foster and Partners, is clearly my favorite, but whatever is built will be my favorite. Just as long as they are not too tall and, this time, conform to the City's building and fire codes.

Walking around that place, or even thinking about it, brings tears to my eyes, (partly from the wind) but it is nice to see the place getting slowly back to something like normal.

Now, if only the inconsiderate fanatics, nuts and screwballs here and throughout the world don't blow it for the rest of us!

 

 

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