September 25, 2001
Dead flowers littler the walk out to the end of Pier A. From a distance -- even with my glasses
on -- I thought it looked like the remains of road kill, the body of a squirrel or a sea gull. But
when I drew close, I made out the darkened leaves and the crushed rose petals, a victim to the
rough hands of the park employees who discarded some of the smaller World Trade Center
memorials overnight, some boss higher up on the food chain of authority, deciding enough was
enough, and could not tolerate the park littered with candles and flowers.
This manager wisely left the main memorial, which looked over the Hudson River -- pointing to
the place formerly occupied by the World Trade Center. But all the smaller tributes were swept
away, carted off in a small trash truck normally assigned to empty trash cans: posters of the lost
bundled up with melted candles and dead flowers, heaped into a mound in the back of the truck,
as if these people here repeated the more labor-intensive ritual on-going across the river, a
symbolic sweeping away of the lives and reminders of those who will not return.
Perhaps someone will be wise enough at some point to design a more fitting memorial, both here
and across the river, one listing the names and floors of the victims the way the Vietnam
Memorial in Washington D.C. does the names and tours of those who died overseas -- a
memorial that won't get swept away so easily or dumped in a landfill somewhere.
Each day the list grows as reports from around the world comes in, British and other foreign
nationals coming to grips with the reality, finally realizing that those who are missing must be
Over the last two weeks, I have talked to some who survived the disaster and the survivors of
those who did not. Few of them speak of vengeance or justice, only shock: all seem stunned by
the experience and moved in a way that at another time might have been described as religious.
Indeed, pastors report Sunday services packed. Nearly all with whom I have spoken grieve
greatly, whether for someone related to them by blood or others by employment.
After two weeks, the number of mourners pausing at the Pier A monument have decreased --
though the pain of those who do stop still bubbles over, melting them, each leaving their dripping
behind in the same way the candles did, shapeless wax and stark emotions seeping into the
cracks of the peir. It is a testimony of tears and one even management will not scrape out, a bit of
their mourning remaining here as long as the pier, even after the monuments are hauled off and
the memory of the moment of disaster oozes out of the public's mind.