World Trade Center

On September 11, 2001 ... well, we all know. At first I thought it was like the bomber that hit the Empire State Building -- they would saw off the tail, plaster a bit, and that would be that. It turned out to be a bit more serious.

Living in London, I didn't get to experience any of this with my fellow New Yorkers. Not that it's a good thing to experience, but if you're crazy about the place, you take the good with the bad. I'm still dumbfounded that someone could see New York as such a threat, since to me, it's an incredibly vibrant and welcoming place. You can find any culture in the world without leaving the five boroughs. In fact, the area around the World Trade Center was once an Arab neighborhood. These guys got it very wrong.

I finally got to see things for myself in early December on a business trip to New York. Surprisingly, "ground zero" was a major tourist attraction, and the fences along lower Broadway were hung with all kinds of bric-a-brac -- notes, posters, flowers, t-shirts and plastic Jesi. That, combined with all the flags, the police, army and the hordes of tourists, made Lower Manhattan feel like it was under occupation.

The taxi drivers and merchants said that business was bad, though by December things were picking up. The Chinatown area was hit particularly hard. Living without money for three months is no joke, but everyone was philosophical. In fact, average New Yorkers were strangely polite -- something that will hopefully go away in due course.

The site itself reminded me of the Roman Forum, with its rubble and ruins. People were still working seven days a week to clear it out, and there were checkpoints all over the place. (Those people were less philosophical.) It was hard to get close, but I did my best using a bit of guile and a strong zoom lens. The page of photos should give some impression of what it was like.