I went to Ground Zero 10 days after Sept. 11.
I moved to Atlanta from New York City in 1999. I lived there 10 years and when the attacks occurred, it felt like the city of 10 million people was collectively a single soul - a single body - a member of my family.
I had a feeling of tremendous loss.
I remember the shock of my boyfriend seeing the image of smoke over the city, on TV. He kept repeating, “New York City is gone.”
Ten days later, we decide to drive there even though we only had time to stay one night. While living in New York, I had worked a part time job down near the World Trade Center at Morton’s of Chicago Steakhouse. I needed to see up close what was left of the Towers and the streets that I had walked through every afternoon and night on my way to and from the subway.
We arrived in the area and my friend, a New York City police officer, who was on duty at Ground Zero, met us. The first thing to hit me was the still burning smell, which carried for several blocks. But my first reaction to what was left of the World Trade Center was disorienting. My mind was still trying to grasp that the ripped facade was all that remained after terrorists flew planes into the buildings and killed so many people.
It was too much to truly comprehend. It was too much to grasp that people had jumped to their deaths...and the firefighters' and first responders' search and rescue, many losing their lives.
Although the immediate area surrounding Ground Zero was restricted, my friend was able to escort us as close as across the street from the site. As we walked through the blocks I remember how strange it seemed that some storefront windows were crashed from debris and others were dusty and intact.
Borders books, which was located at front corner of the World Trade Center was practically destroyed, except for the storefront window where books seemed to still be in place.
The trip also revealed the rippling and devastating effect on the city’s economy. In just a week and a half, numerous businesses and restaurants from downtown through midtown and uptown had closed.
My boyfriend and I were up most of the night trying to process the reality of everything, while reading newspaper stories on the aftermath to each other.
Somehow, when we got back on the road the following day, we felt comforted, as if we had visited a wounded loved one.