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I never made it to New York city in time to see the twin towers.
I don’t regret that.
I could only see one purpose in visiting the building: to tick it off a list of buildings that I was supposed to visit (according to the emphatic 48 point bold opinion of a glossy tourist brochure).
Never been big on lists. Especially when they’re glossy.
While I do have a soft spot for architecture (I have a major cliché crush on the Chrysler building for example), the Trade Center, in my mind, didn’t have much character – just epic size – which doesn’t really mean much on its own. You really need some dude to tight rope walk stuff before it gets real.here)
Anyway, when I arrived in NYC for the first time the glossy brochures were freshly edited – WTC was off the list, GROUND ZERO was at the top.
It wasn’t because of the brochures. I just had this weird sense of duty about it. The same duty I feel about visiting the grave of the unknown soldier. People die. Someone should bear witness to their passing. They should be honored for a moment. Even by strangers.
Especially by strangers.
I don’t know why I’m wired to think that way. Sometimes I think grief is the thing that makes humans most human. Sometimes I think if we felt more of a connection to people then we’d be less inclined to destroy.
Sometimes I think I just need to get out more.
Anyway, I arrived after ground zero was cleaned up but before there was any kind of monument (I’m guessing because bureaucracy was tasked with the burden of helping the public express grief which is hard for bureaucracy – it isn’t really in touch with its emotions).
Stepping between clusters of browning flowers and portraits of screaming eagles going down in flames, I discovered that ground zero is one of the most mystifying places on the earth.
Here are some reviews via TripAdvisor (where ground zero is ranked #249 out of #1385 attractions in NYC): “Nothing to see.”, “It’s more to say you went…”, “Not a tourist attraction.”
That’s the thing about Ground Zero.
Yes, the site has deep political, personal, global and religious implications. I don’t want to diminish the fact that thousands died. All I’m saying is that, purely aesthetically speaking – it’s a an absence.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of tourists travel hundreds of thousands of miles to flock and shove – just to visit an absence.
I like that. Not just the irony. The simplicity. There’s something beautiful in nothing. Something complete.
We all come from nothing. We’ll all return to nothing.