World Trade 9/11 Memorial Site – by Poonam Chawla

There is nothing dignified about death. I am not sure why I went, that first time, to the place of implosion. I guess I had some idea of standing there amidst the debris, my hat in my hands, saying a silent prayer for those who had left us. In its stead, a quarter mile away from the actual site, a rank odor announced itself like a foreboding. As I got closer, the mélange of rotting potatoes, overheated engines reeking oil, charred eggplants the color of ash settled like a second skin making me heave. I grabbed a tissue, forcing down the bitter taste of vomit in my mouth and went back home.

Now over a decade later, there is no more smell; the human detritus swept away, the air is like itself again, unheeding. In place of the original Towers, water drapes over the foundation, ripples abundantly like the tears of children. The names of those passed, so carefully imprinted – first name, middle name, last name – flicker like glow worms in the dark.

I feel odd. They haven’t done enough. This is pointless. We are stepping over bodies to admire the view, I think. Two girls stand cheek-to-cheek getting their picture taken against the memorial backdrop. One moment I want to admonish them and then I don’t. Life has to go on, doesn’t it, I say to myself from a lofty height.

When we go into the museum store (there is always a museum store, collecting grief, selling hope) for the millionth time I wonder what happened to the security guard, the elevator guard, the smokers I met three times a day, rushing out for a quick fix. I had no friends at that place of work. But we all have our familiars wherever we make a temporary home. They serve as a blanket against the cold steel of the city.

It was a good visit. I still love the city. There is a new tower in place of the old – hope lives on. But there is no longer a reason to take the path train from Newark to Fulton. My familiars are lost. And the rest is just babel.

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