For those of you who aren't from around here, or who have only seen the place on TV or in photographs, let me tell you what I have seen here.
It's an enormous construction site now; some call it "The Pit." The work goes noisily on around a train station that exists at the bottom of The Pit. The PATH train that runs between New York and New Jersey stops here, just as it always did back when two gawkish, faux-glitz towers stood in this hole.
I pass through here, twice a day every weekday (and some weekends, too). I was in the midst of a divorce when it all happened, and my lawyer's office was near the corner of Vesey St. and Church, across the street from what is now The Pit. I can recall the day I went there, in late October or early November, after they'd allowed the residents of his building back in. He took me to his window and we looked down at the desolation below. It kind of took the usual bitter edge off discussions of child support, legal fees, and the rest of the negotiations that take place between adversaries who had once lain together in ecstasy.
It is a tourist destination now—maybe the busiest one in town, I don't know for sure. Digital cameras click and grind; people talk in subdued voices and point at things; and small, stray groups of activists, peace marchers, and conspiracy adherents sometimes appear and pass through. There are no memorials aside from the occasional bunch of flowers, left to wither on the concrete; often you see a squadron of dark blue or green soldiers with M-16 guns and flak jackets, smiling and chatting with the tourists. The famous and the powerful only come here once a year, along with their train of TV trucks and reporters. The families of those who were murdered here are also invited.
On Sunday, they'll be back, led by a man whose crimes of opportunistic deceit from what happened here are still being further exposed today. His fawning, saccharine-laced contempt will be spilled in a commercial rhetoric that we have become all too familiar with by now; he will speak floridly of the heroes—the police and firemen whose pockets he has brazenly picked, this labor-hating, union-busting President of ours. He will talk a lot about the defense of freedom and liberty, this man who has done more than any president before him to restrict freedom and liberty in his relentless pursuit of the police state. The assembled stooges of the mass media will doggedly, faithfully record every word, every staged moment of this solemn photo-op, and report to us of this President's grace, humility, and eloquence.
But those people, down in The Pit, will not be so easily sold or swayed. So if you would like to gain a little perspective or glean a glimpse of truth, I would suggest that you listen for their voices, which—as we have pointed out before in the wake of the Moussaoui verdict—far surpass any politician's for depth and wisdom. For to them, The Pit remains a living nightmare, a reality that cannot be twisted or spun into anything other than what it was and is for them. Those people will not likely take to being held up as the props for a failed and deranged foreign policy; for they have been taken to depths of experience and understanding that this President and his cronies will never, ever know.