Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mirror images

October 5, 2001

Until the city opened the walkways between Pier A and the Sinatra Park area, I hadn’t known about the second, larger memorial, one that was in many ways, much more touching than the one I clung to at the end of Pier A.
I heard about the opening of the walkway from the Hoboken reporter and when I went to the Pier A wall where I usually writer, I made a point of checking out the opened walk, looking forwards to the day when the whole water front from Fort Lee to Bayonne was open to the public.
Over my shoulder, the ghost of the World Trade Center towers hung – no smoke now, just a heaviness that only death brings. I had felt such weight as the scenes of some great historic battles like Gettysburg and Bull Run, as if those who had died there increased the mass with each passing day, becoming an emotional black hole into which other, living souls case their own spirits.
The piers of Hoboken were largely a faction, the Port authority, which was charged with maintaining them during the 1980s, had let them rot, an issue that remained undiscovered until after voters rejected the PA’s plan to build large buildings on them. While many of the PA workers died in the WTC disaster, their presents on Hoboken streets had the feeling of an occupying army, their pick up trucks roving the local streets oblivions to all local traffic ordinances.
In the city’s efforts to save the piers, it was forced to demolish some of the few remaining waterfront buildings once reserved to become a mall – now destined to mirror Battery Park City across the river with similar buildings.
As I walked north along the water, I watched the steam shovels and back hoes working from barges, removing the last debris from a dock that had already been reduced to water level – almost imitating another, more dreadful function already underway across the river at Ground Zero, the bones of the sacred past sacrificed to progress.
Then, I crossed over to the area commonly called Stevens Pier, which the city had plans to name Sinatra Park, and to the section where a ball field had been installed, surrounded by a walkway made up of paver stones, and where the walked turned and a long rail looked out over the Hudson towards the site of the World Trade Center, the large monument loomed, filled with flowers, candles and posters of the missing, although the real heart break for me were the slowly fading messages to lost loved ones written on many of the pavers in black markets, names and personal wishes never meant for me to read, scratched out in desperation and pain at a point in Hoboken from which the disaster had been most obvious, where apparently hundreds had gathered on Sept. 11 to watch and weep, and to which the survivors returned, weeping again, as work men on the sunken piers continued their precarious balancing act, unaware of the sad irony they presented, digging up Hoboken’s past here, as workers at Ground Zero dug up loved ones there, not merely dismantling an old doc, but a way of live, not seeking to recover bodies, but removing all signs of the working class world this place had once been.

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