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Thursday, September 11, 2003

My daily commute around the memory of 9/11


For over 100 days this past winter and spring, I commuted via the NY Waterway ferry from the pier at the end of Wall Street westward around Lower Manhattan to Exchange Place in Jersey City and back again. I was living in a hotel just off Wall Street and consulting in the Jersey City offices of AIG's Corporate eBusiness Group. This daily run on the Hudson River amounted to almost 200 boat rides. On most of these 15-minute boat rides, I'd try to imagine the outline of the Twin Towers over Ground Zero, and think about the view of the smoke and destruction the ferry riders had on the day of the attack. The commuter ferry stopped right at the front of our building, which has a spectacular view of the financial district and the World Financial Center where the Twin Towers once stood. To honor the people from Jersey City that died when the towers went down, the city erected a small temporary memorial on the waterfront promenade near the commuter pier.


The memorial consists of a slab of black granite and four pieces of I-beam wreckage salvage from Ground Zero. The slab has a list of names of the missing on the waterfront side and on the reverse is an engraving of the skyline with the Twin Towers. The I-beam pieces are stacked in the shape of the letter A and point to the slab in the direction of Ground Zero. Standing behind the I-beams of the Jersey City 9-11 memorial, you can sight through the converging metal pieces to the photo-engraving of the towers and beyond to Ground Zero. The memorial elegantly enhanced the thoughts I had on the boat.


I would feel a shudder every time I touched the twisted and torn-edged pieces of I-beam. I'd think about these I-beams churning and pulverizing everything in the vortex of the collapsing towers. I'd look at the big gap of Ground Zero and try to visualize a massive pile of debris consisting only of these I-beams and dust in chunks no larger than the palm of your hand. And then I'd survey the bits of ephemera—ribbons, small flags, notecards, and ceramic cherubs—that people affixed to the beams and feel an inadequate simulation of the profound loss felt by surviving family members.

While this memorial still stands as of this writing, I read that there is a new permanent design in the works. I hope the new memorial succeeds as powerfully as this one.

Lastly, I share with you a photo gallery from 11/11/01.

11:59 PM in New York | Permalink


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mike these are really poignant shots. i also visited ground zero in 11/01 - and it had a profound effect on me. such a strange unsettled feeling from the moment i got off the subway. the shots of the kids messages are great.

Posted by: jenny at Sep 12, 2003 8:50:20 PM

Mike, your photos do a wonderful job of capturing more than the items in them, they also capture the emotion. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by: Jessica at Sep 13, 2003 8:27:32 AM

Unfortunately, the proposed permanent Jersey City 9/11 memorial has none of the qualities you admire in the temporary one. The Mayor has decided that a gigantic, hideous scar shaped monolith 100 feet tall would somehow put him on the map. It will be an unnerving reminder of that traumatic day. Rather than a memorial it will remind - over and over- our victimhood, powerlessness and grief. It blocks our view of the future. It's size makes it clear that it is a vainglorious attempt at grandstanding and does not represent in any way the heroism and loss of that day.

Posted by: Perry Borenstein at May 12, 2004 9:48:28 PM