December 11, 2001 8:46am
World Trade Center
There will be more about the World Trade Center. It will take a
few posts to capture it.
The thing you are most aware of at the WTC, day or night, is the
roar of generators, the high pitched staccato of heavy machinery
in reverse, the grinding of gears, the buzz and sizzle of blow torches,
and the horrible shrieks and crunches of rubble being yanked out
of a massive pile of debris.
The workers, the cops, the firefighters you see along the edge
of the site range from stone-faced to relaxed. They have been here
for three months. Every day. Twelve to sixteen hour shifts.
As one officer put it as he sipped coffee along the barricade,
You get a little numb
but when you think youve
got it all shut down something happens that brings it all up again.
It gets a little better every day.
8:46am marked the three month anniversary, to the minute, of the
first plane crashing into the first tower.
At 8:45am the noise died, like someone threw a switch. The generators
still hummed but the other sounds of the site, the blow torches,
the trucks, the cranes, the pounding, the voices, all of it
Prior to that, the Mayor and Governor held a memorial service.
The noise abated a bit. But by 8:46am all you could hear were construction
workers, cops, firemen, and an untold number of civilians singing
the national anthem. Hats off. Hands over heart.
Im sure there was an accompaniment playing. It only makes
sense. I cant remember it. What I remember are the voices.
What I remember are the strong, solid, achingly tired faces on the
hulking bodies of the workers
large men, strong men, tough
men. Numbed men.
What I remember, more than anything, is one man, in his 50s,
some kind of crew leader. I saw him laughing and joking and barking
orders earlier. A man in charge. A man who was working at a construction
site, any construction site.
What I remember are the tears streaming down his face as he tried
to sing. What I remember is him breaking down, riddled with sobs
and convulsions as he fell to his knees. What I remember are other
strong, hard men reaching for him, lifting him up, holding him,
consoling him. What I remember are the other faces painted with
What I will carry with me forever is the look on his face as the
song ended, a mixture of bewilderment, pain, fear, and a sadness
so deep he will never find the bottom of that dark well. What I
remember are his words as he shook his head, the arm of a friend
draped protectively over his shoulders
Snuck up on me, again.