On a sunny Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, I went for a walk. I was away from home and in a city that encourages that sort of thing, but I was determined not to spend all my time sightseeing. I’d been to Mass (no names, no pack drill), eaten brunch (comprising a Bloody Mary and a burger – what would Geoffrey Kirk say?) and now it was time to do what a friend had warned me I would have to do, before even I set out.
I walked to the West Entrance of the World Financial Centre, went up the escalator and made my way along the walkway until it gave way to the temporary footbridge which leads east towards Broadway, along the side of Ground Zero. I didn’t want to sightsee, but too many around me did. As I stood, overwhelmed with the evil which had been visited upon that place, I knew that there was no way I could get my camera out and point it into that mass grave. But wherever I looked, there were families posing in front of the void and smiling cheerfully for the cameras and the camcorders, as one of their number recorded the moments for posterity.
I walked on and found myself at St Paul’s Chapel, where the railings all around were still draped with all those heart-rending pictures and messages which we all saw on our televisions. And, hard by the Chapel, there were the purveyors of the junk souvenirs (as if anyone could ever forget) – the World Trade Center t-shirts, the Twin Towers snowstorm things that you shake (can you imagine?) and all the rest. Here, I confess, the camera came out, as I wanted to be able to prove what I had seen, if only to myself.
Depressed beyond measure, I moved on and found myself close to one of the contractors’ entrances to Ground Zero. A girl, in her late teens I suppose, stood and stared. Her face crumpled up and she started to weep.
My faith in human nature thus restored, I moved off, as my tears at last began to flow as well.