On Thursday, September 13, 2001, I traveled by foot and bus--along with thousands of other New Yorkers--to Union Square, a well-known park on 14th St. in the heart of Manhattan. It is situated about 30 blocks from “Ground Zero’. This historic gathering place--long consecrated throughout the last century with protests and spontaneous demonstrations--sits at the border beyond which no civilian could any longer travel to lower Manhattan.
Not surprisingly it became a natural magnet for New Yorkers seeking to communicate, commiserate and console one another after the attack on the World Trade Center.
I entered the park from the uptown end. Anxiously I looked around initially fearful that it had been a wild goose chase. Then I picked out a milling, eerily quiet gathering of people at the opposite or downtown end of the park. A woman I had met on the bus—like myself another turned-away blood donor and volunteer—was also going to ‘the memorial’, and she cradled a blood red bouquet of roses for those killed.
I had no flowers, but I brought a notebook. In times of crises we return to what we know. I have been a news reporter for at least half my life.
The two of us didn’t really know much, only that some NYU students--also frustrated volunteers-- late the day before, Wednesday, had taped long rectangles of butcher paper on the ground, and that people in the park had begun writing on them.
I had brought a pen. So had my new acquaintance.
As the two of us joined the hushed and milling throng we shook hands and said, ‘Goodbye.’ Without saying it we both understood that privacy was part of our need.
I knelt down with those squatting or sitting in front of a 12-ft. high plaster pillar, naked wire resembling a torch flowing out of its top.
On its front in silver glitter someone had glued the letters:
To The Victims of Terrorist Attacks.
No one seemed to know when, but sometime later an unknown person had wired to it, a long rectangular piece of World Trade Tower Two.
In front of this pillar floated a sea of candles, small US flags, bouquets of roses by the dozens, many still in their cellophane wrappers, and single flowers of every kind. Spreading out from these were messages. They were Bold like headlines or artfully drawn like Murals. There were also notes--some short, some long--printed or scrawled in every color pen, ranging from sentences to headlines to poems to long rambling outpourings. Many included quotations of every kind and they were written in all the languages of all the people who comprise this American melting pot: Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, Spanish, and many more.
It would be awhile before I realized that these messages spread out from this
Center in a hodge podge in every direction and that they numbered in the thousands.
All around me people were crying. They were young and old, Black and White and Asian. A young girl with wicker wings tied to her back asked if I needed a hug. I did. But I said I didn’t. Hours later, at the end of my travel through this many chambered heart of the city’s collective wound, I hugged a compete stranger. It was the only thing to do.
As I walked around I jotted down, at random, some of the notes inscribed there. It is my great honor to share them with you. When they are signed I have included those names.
“Gentlemen may cry ‘Peace, Peace’—but there is no peace.”
I’ve lived here for a year, and I didn’t think I was from here till this week. With Love and Remembrance to All.
Together in School
Together in Work
Together in Heaven
Capt. Brown of Ladder Co.3.
Pray for him and his men.
This is just too much grief for my mind to process.
Robert Wagner Garden and All the things I love are gone and thousands of people died while I watched.
Why was I spared?
How can I go on?
Sept. 12, 2001
Love Bears All Things
God Is Love
This Won’t Stop New York!
Fear the Evil Within
Before Evil Without
Bomb the Taliban Now!!!!!!
If you hate, they’ve Won!
God Bless America
Land That I Love
Stand Beside Her
And Guide Her
Make Their Countries Parking Lots.
What would the DaliLama say?
Towers are small
Love is Infinite
No Day But Today
[Drawing of a Dog]
Spot, Protector of All New Yorkers, sez:
New York will bounce
Back stronger than ever
Arf Arf Arf
[As I watched, a father read this to
his 7-year-old son]
My Heart Will Hurt Forever
WE WILL NOT BE MOVED
Peace is the God’s One Love
To ALL Americans
Russia Feel Your Pain
Igor, Alina, Olga, Oleg
There can be no world peace without YOU
“Live” is a verb
Bible quotes, “And God shall wipe away
All tears from their eyes…”
Let us not into Temptation
And fall in the hands of
The Greatest Enemy
Don’t Give Up People,
Still life down there
Signed with a Chinese Ideogram
[Enclosed inside a heart]
USA all the Way and a cross
We Must Love Each Other or Die
As I watched those buildings fall,
A part of me died with you.
New York is my home and you—though I
did not know you personally—were
My brothers and sisters. We have
been dealt a serious blow, but we
are not defeated.
God Bless You Families.
I believe in the American Liberty
We all lost thousand of relatives
[As I watch a woman kneels and writes]
Scotty you are in our thought and prayers
This is the first time in my life I prayed
For people I didn’t know.
[Red & White Roses and Bluebells lie
Across a long butcher paper sheet of
Light a candle in your heart but do not
Fuel the anger
Today My Heart Has Been Touched
By The Spirit Of A Nation
Arab & Jew
Catholic & Protestant
Let’s stop fighting and
Sit down and have a pint
I’m not ready to kill
I’m not ready to die
To Be Honest, I’m hardly
Ready to Live
And I’m running out of time
[An origami bird with print on
Not one More life Should be taken [on the left wing]
[on the right wing] Say it Again
We Shall Overcome
Shanti Shanti Shanti
[Scattered among the message papers
were Red Cross Flyers: Advice For Stress]
They will not stop us
They are cowards
And must pay
For what they have done
Don’t blame the entire Arab world
They were born into this mess.
Just like everyone else.
Heroes are created
Everyday when ordinary people
Risk their lives for others.
In remembrance for all that risked
They All must pay
They All must die
[Hebrew script by one writer;
then another writer’s
Peace will yet come to Us
[white roses lay on this]
My Name is BRIANNA
MIGNaNO and I am 6 years old.
I would like to tell all the
Mommies not to cry.
We will pray for
your missing children.
I feel as Blue as this piece of paper
To All Victim’s Families
I am deeply sorry.
I was shocked when I heard what
In school no one told us
what was wrong.
That made it scarier.
When we finally found out that the twin towers
were gone it was shocking.
It turns out we knew someone on the plane.
My Mom was friends with her and her husband.
He wasn’t on the plane.
They also have a dog.
The day it happened there were roses
and candles outside their apartment building.
They lived near us so we saw it before we
knew she was on the plane.
Again, I am truly sorry for all your losses.
11 years old
1 WTC, 38th to 40th Floor
Programmers. Call us and let
us know you got out too. I
Love you guys.
Tears of Blood Fall On Our City
[a large mural with columns of
colorful stick figures of many races
except for two columns in the middle
which are empty and white]
We are Still Standing
Our Hearts Mourn and Our Souls Weep
For Heather HO, Windows on the World
Pastry chef, Fred and Family.
We are with
You wherever you are.
Love, LG 9/13/01
[On a pillar by the subway tunnel,
people taped pictures of missing friends
Letter to Margaret Echterman:
We will see you again on Earth or in Heaven
I ended my time in the memorial by sitting
off to one side on a construction lumber pile and
listening to a lone bagpipe.
The woman who played wore shorts and a black
Ghostbusters T-shirt . Somewhat like the shrine,
she at first appeared a most motley mourner.
But as I watched her pace and listened to her mournful piping,
I realized No one much cared what she looked like.
The tears wept in response to her music were all that mattered.
This is my offering to America’s Day of Prayer and Remembrance
Please pass it along.