Note: Click any image here for a clear, large version. All images will open into a new window. To continue, just close the new window. Smaller monitors may require some scrolling to view the whole image. 256 color systems may display posterized colors in skies and other places -- use thousands or millions of colors if possible. All full-sized images are larger than usual jpegs (>10", ca. 100 megs each), as no smaller size can do justice to this event, one which will loom as the lowest nadir of perfidious human evil. To quote FDR from 60 years ago, this truly is "a day which will live in infamy."
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5- At a NYC Fire Station
After leaving Union Square, I headed over to our neighborhood fire station. When I first moved down to The Village area of Manhattan the sounds of the firefighters racing off into the night, into the early morning, would often wake me, the jarring sounds in a sleeping city being quite loud, as "that's the whole point!" But within less than a month somehow my brain automatically learned to filter out their sounds, and it simply became part of the familiar background jostle of living in a big city. It's a lovely brick building, a quintessential city fire station, you bet.
In this photo from a few days ago the mood is not so anecdotal. Our station's courageous staff had joined in as most every station in town who could get to the World Trade Center had joined in: to try to put out the roaring jet fuel flames that threatened the lives and space within the two towers as the morning began for many office workers and visitors.
My Local Fire Station Mourns
Their thoughts were routine, to extinguish the flames, try to save lives and property. But the venue was both unusual and unusually difficult. While office workers were filling the stairways, fleeing downwards to safety, these brave men were arriving from all over town, racing in and upwards on foot, most of them carrying heavy equipment used to quench blazes within city buildings. Few of them ever made it out again, including the top three members of our local station. The station had assembled a display of those still missing, and likely dead. They'd carefully lettered in the names of each, and then placed a sheet of glass or plastic over the poster to protect it from the rain and elements, during this time of mutual grieving. There were several junior members of the brigade, all that was left, who stood in front, just to chat with well-wishers and neighbors, or to answer a few questions politely asked.
We'll Never Forget You
To the right side of the large doorway I saw the above display. Mingling within a very large collection of gorgeous flowers and plants were the items you see here. There was a large red sign which a school class had put together for their heroes (when we're children we better appreciate the really essential jobs, don't we?). There was the message written in bold black ink on a vermilion T-shirt by the firefighters themselves to their grieving neighbors. There were signs and flags and hearts. I smiled at the tiny toy fire engine whimsically placed at the very top. Significant moments in our lives are often marked with many sides of our humanity.
Thank you. Thank you.
I'd been quite emotional and wet-eyed while observing all of this, then completely lost it when over to the left side I spotted this small framed sign within an attractive arrangement of votive and other candles. This says it all, as much as any words might. I heard someone else ask one of the young firemen how they can do this, go into a dangerous situation like that, risk their lives in risky to the extreme conditions. He paused, embarrassed slightly and a bit shy, then quietly said just what you knew he would say: "well, we don't think of it that way -- it's part of the job!"
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6- What Remains
At first there was little point in trying to head downtown the blocks to the WTC itself. The city authorities asked us to be patient for a few more days. All the roads there were still blocked off, although further east from the site a few avenues had been opened to traffic after I got back home. Finally on Wednesday the local NPR affiliate, WNYC, announced from its improvised temporary studio and transmitter that the public would be permitted to walk down Broadway, as long as they remained on the east side of the street. So I headed down with still and video cameras, not really expecting to see very much. It was the perfect timing, as the next day the crowds learned of the improved conditions and it became more of a crush of people. So these may be the best I can expect to get, as the wreckage is constantly being removed.
St. Paul's Church Sans 1 WTC
Just south of the Brooklyn Bridge subway station is Saint Paul's Chapel, on the west side of Broadway (that's Vesey Street to the right). It's a landmark church (one of the oldest, Washington worshipped here) with its stark interior and wooden steeple. This is the oldest public building still in use in Manhattan, and is filled with history. Gratefully, it was spared in the attack, shielded by larger buildings to the south and west. It was such a familiar sight to see the towers immediately behind the church from this angle that you'd just smile and walk on. But when I saw it all this time the loss hit me powerfully.
Workers and Equipment Along Broadway
I headed South on Broadway. Only the east sidewalk was open to pedestrians. It had been reopened about an hour before I arrived, and the crowd was not yet very large. No cars were allowed down this main artery, which was filled with trucks and emergency vehicles of many kinds. Workers were moving briskly all over the streets, some on foot, many deploying bright yellow heavy-duty tractor shovels, bulldozers and bucket cranes. It looked formidable, like some overgrown construction site. But that's inaccurate: this is actually a busy DEstruction site. It's under supervision of union professionals, even while police and firefighters continue their slow, careful search for bodies. This view is facing southwest near Dey Street.
When a Black Facing Turns Gray
One block further south, at Cortland Street, this black facade office building greeted me. It was no longer ordinary, with the heavy debris dusting it received, turning the stark dark facing into a ghostly gray-beige overlay. Most of the street surfaces are much the same (you're kidding -- that's asphalt?), as you'll note in several of these photos. Up close it's just as dusty and dirty as it looks. Yet this building, only one block away from the collapsed towers, shows little significant damage. Most of the buildings on lower Broadway within these several blocks resemble this example. The darker underlying color here, however, contrasts sharply with the particulate coating it.
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