My Visit To World Trade Center Site One Month After 9/11
In the days following the Sept. 11 tragedy, Andy and I struggled to find the right tone for our morning radio show on WTRV FM. We really are not a political morning show or a “newsy” kind of show either. We are a current affairs / entertainment based show that uses — or at least tries to — use a lot of humor.
We really couldn’t do “business as usual” the following morning. No one was really in the mood for it. It took a few weeks and a few missteps along the way to get back to what we do best. During that time, September of 2001, our radio station constructed two foam core 4′ x 8′ thank you cards. Mary Ann Meyer of Signs and Wonders in Sparta did the graphics thanking the rescue and aid station workers. WTRV staff carried those big signs to several pubic gatherings to allow everyone to write a few words. It was a beautiful thing…two big cards covered in magic-marker thoughts and prayers.
One month to the day, Mary Ann and I hand delivered those signs to the main Salvation Army aid station directly across the street from where the towers came down. The sights and smells are still with me today.
Beautiful fall day, the smell of wet concrete and dust everywhere…as if the entire city was hosing a garage floor. While we were only a few dozen yards fro the devastation, you had to look up to see it. The towers did not fall to flat earth, the towers pancaked the ground four or five floors high.
The aid station workers were swamped keeping up with the number of rescue workers coming in for meals. Even more daunting seemed to be the effort to store the overwhelming amount of food donations coming in from around the world. Every available space was jammed with crates of every non-perishable you can imagine.
Sadly, the delivery of those thank you cards and the obligatory pictures could only last 30 seconds. Actual military soldiers guarding the aid station kept us on a very short leash — and absolutely no pictures of the Trade Center or any of the surrounding damage. The soldiers had guns and meant it. I still don’t understand why.
After driving 25 hours to New York, Mary Ann and I were, well…disappointed with how little time we had. The entire point of our effort was over in about two minutes. We were quickly hustled away from the site and told to go home. Instead, we pretended we were lost and drove west, toward the riverfront and saw all kinds of structural steel loaded on barges ready for dumping. We saw those long fence-rows of missing person pictures.
Tons of broken windows, bricks, mortar. Papers still flying in the breeze…the stuff we all remember from t.v. We also saw several politicians stepping out of limos to have their pictures taken, maybe to show how “on-top-of-it” they were.
Then, as quickly as it began…driving south from the impact site, the quiet and absolute horror gave way to Wall Street and New York’s financial district. It seemed odd. Just a few blocks south of where the World Trade Center stood just one month earlier, it was business as usual. It was about 9
in the morning and New Yorkers were on the move. Doing what they do at full speed. It was just an odd juxtaposition.
25 hours to get there. 20 minutes total time on scene. 25 hours to drive home. One month to the day after 9/11.