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Ground zero

For weeks I deliberated over whether I should get to New York before September 11th or after. Flying on September 11th was out of the question, for I believe that history can repeat itself though I also believe in reincarnation.

In the end, I decided to visit Ground Zero to complete the two year cycle of shock, betrayal, disappointment, reflection, recovery, and finally rebirth. It was important to see it in person.

I took the train from Flushing, Queens to Penn Station and then changed to number 1. I walked to Washington Square to meet my high school friend who worked at NYU.

The air conditioning on the Metro was too cold for someone recovering from jet lag and the onset of a headache and cold. Sympathetic to my worsening health and claustrophobic disposition, my friend led me through the streets of New York on foot.

Only three years ago, I had commenced my career-change with a visit to the 105th floor of the World Trade Centre. I can't remember which of the two towers, but the executive I had interviewed via a transatlantic video link had perished in his office two years later. He was in London, so his colleagues arranged for me to talk to him in their lavish boardroom. The view from his former corner office was stunning. Earlier I had dined with the chief technology officer of another well-known company in the Windows of the World. That restaurant no longer exists.

Ground zero was a construction site that buried the remains of two spectacular towers. One of the best breakfasts I had was in the Marriott Hotel next door. It was a midget compared to the towers. The plaza was a place for tourists to hang out - but now it's a graveyard with an uncertain future.

My friend and I went into the renovated Millenium Hilton where I had once stayed for over two weeks. It was one of my favourite hotels then. The grand piano has disappeared, and in place of the bar was now a security office.

We visited Century 21, the award-winning international discount department store. I had bought many dresses here but somehow it was no longer the same to shop until I dropped.

As the sun set behind the American flag, we joined the tourists and mourners who had come to see Ground Zero. Some sat on the steps of the Brooks Brothers building facing the setting sun. Others browsed through the various books and knickknacks being sold by street peddlers.

Before long, I got sick of my nolstagia. "Time to go," I said. "Let's take a bus. I want to be above ground."

My friend moved here more than ten years ago. Manhattan is a place interestingly enough to live here forever inconspicuously. You get the sense that you're living even when you're not. I told him to get out of here. "Time to go," I said again. "Please get out of here. It has zapped your energy dry. It's time to move on."

11 September 2003 Thursday

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Anne Ku

writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.