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morning in mid-October, I went down to Chambers Street with a couple
of friends. The police were still restricting access to the area South
of Chambers and West of Broadway, which was the perimeter of Ground
Zero at that time. We managed to talk our way past, however, and found
ourselves in a no man's land of abandoned cars, filthy buildings,
concrete barriers and chain link fences. There was a second perimeter
around the actual worksite, but we made no attempt to go there.
was sad to see blocks and blocks of closed shops in a once vibrant
area. There were, however, odd exceptions. Amidst the gray riot gates
a light shone brightly from a high-end cigar store. The windows were
sparkling clean, the displays meticulously arranged. Inside, a
well-dressed Asian man was serving a police officer an espresso. How
was he able to open his shop? And why? There was no immediate prospect
of customers; we were the only pedestrians inside the perimeter other
than cops, construction workers, firefighters and one man walking his
smell is unforgettable and pervades everything within blocks of Ground
Zero. It's the smell of a wet burned building, but more difficult to
tolerate because it acts as a constant reminder of the tragedy. After
two months it's as strong and acrid as ever as the pile continues to
burn. Some days, when the autumn wind blows due North, we can smell it
all the way on the Upper West Side.
from a deli and a pizza place, the only other establishment we found
open was the Raccoon Lodge bar on Warren Street. At 10 AM there were
actually quite a few customers -- all construction workers from Ground
Zero. Tim thought they were done with their shifts, but I suspected
that more than a few were having a liquid lunch break. Their hardhats
and respirators were piled up on a shelf behind them and they looked
and acted like they were drinking to forget.
on the other hand, had just dropped our kids off at school and
couldn't really imagine drinking at that hour, so we ordered coffee.
AJ, the bartender, smiled sweetly and asked us if we didn't perhaps
want to add something to that. I was staring at a bottle of Bushmill's
and thought how appropriate an Irish coffee might be, so I suggested
that we add a drop of whiskey. The boys concurred and we raised our
glasses to the brave souls who gave their lives.
found on a lamppost near Ground Zero
we sipped our jacked-up coffees, the mailman arrived. His face was
completely obscured by a full respirator. With no acknowledgement of
how surreal he appeared, he dropped off the mail with a muffled
"Hey, AJ" and continued his rounds.
we were within a few gulps from the bottom of our mugs, AJ approached
and said that one of the fellows down the bar had bought us a round.
We struggled internally, but when a guy working in Ground Zero offers
you a drink, you don't say "no." We accepted AJ's addition
of a couple more ounces of Bushmill's to our tepid coffees and raised
our glasses to our new friend. Around then I started thinking about
how little I had eaten for breakfast.
through the second drink, we shuffled around in preparation to leave
and AJ again approached with the Bushmill's. This round was on her.
Can you really say "No" to AJ? Call us weak-willed, but we
couldn't. I think that was the first day I've ever shown up for work
drunk. And on a super-caffeine buzz. Wow.
overall impression that morning was that we will be living with the
effects of September 11th for a long time. The plane crash this
morning in Rockaway underscored that. Airports, bridges and tunnels
closed here in the city yet again. By all accounts, there are many
more innocent victims, although apparently not due to a terrorist act.
the future brings, I'll never forget that smell.
* * *
out there wondering about EvenHand? Amidst the chaos and
uncertainty, progress continues to be made on our little film. Perhaps
I'll get back to the business of the movie with the next journal
KIDS: OCTOBER MUSINGS
© 2001-2003 Cypress
This work is
licensed under a Creative