A Brief Conversation on 9/11

Earlier today I visited a client of my web site business in Lower Manhattan. Their office is a few blocks walk north of the World Trade Center.

Few New Yorkers, other than media types and those peddling goulish day tours, refer to “ground zero.” Like many others born and raised in Jersey City, I hold self-appointed dual citizenship in NYC. We New Yorkers stubbornly call it the World Trade Center, partly out of memory but largely out of defiance and a refusal to allow the 9/11 scum to think they took away anything more than the physical.

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

It’s another insight into local character that, until that day, both the World Trade Center and Mayor Rudy Giuliani, were seriously disliked and even reviled, by most New Yorkers; one for ugliness, the other for arrogance (you figure out which is which; could be either or both). But once something of our own is attacked by “outsiders,” it immediately becomes beloved. Well . . . maybe that’s too strong a word; try “tolerated.”

For all of New York’s alleged modernity, we do not easily abandon place names. We require a little time before we accept a name change. That may explain why Sixth Avenue, whose name was changed only 64 years ago to Avenue of the Americas, is still Sixth Avenue on local maps. The West Side area between 23rd and 42nd streets that real estate developers want to call “Clinton” remains “Hell’s Kitchen” to the rest of us.

It was no surprise that bureaucratic post-9/11 attempts to change the World Trade Center PATH Station name to something else met with cries of outrage in the distinctive local accent.

This morning, as usual, when the PATH train from Jersey City pulled into the open wound known as “the washtub,” the deep space at the foot of the former towers, I averted my eyes. I can never look.

The one time I did that, in 2003, on my first visit since 2001, as I stepped from the train to the platform, I was clobbered as if by Gorgon’s Gaze of mythology.

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