Thursday, June 19, 2008

New York, part 1: The Serious Post

The whole reason we (got up at 5:30 AM and drove for 2.5 hours) went to NYC was to take a guided tour of the World Trade Center site. Several of the faculty at the Disaster Research Center conducted research and continue to do work on the waterbourne evacuations and supply chains that developed after the event; also it's a good example of how disasters are part of and affect the fabric of a society.

The site is ... well, it's big, but I wasn't completely awed by its area (16 acres). When we got above it and looked down, that did a better job of conveying its size. Our tour guide was actually one of the founders of the WTC Tribute Center, a resource for members of the "9/11 community." I gathered that this included people personally involved with the attacks or the recovery - in the towers, working next door, an EMT or firefighter - and the families of these people. Our guide, a retired firefighter, lost his son (also a firefighter). His perspectives were ... interesting. He talked about needed to "enlighten" people in foreign countries who just don't know any better, which got my hackles up a little. I didn't think it was the right time to engage in political debate, though, and that wasn't the point of the tour. He wanted to share his story, and we wanted to listen. Though I wonder about the Tribute Center's plan to "adopt" a village in Afghanistan and "send teachers out there to enlighten the people." That sort of thing could go very well if the local people and outsiders get together and figure out what each can do for the other. It could go very, very badly if we just barge in there and start telling people what to do.

As for my own reaction ... I was surprisingly stoic. I know that the world changed hugely after 9/11, but what I remember most about that day are my own reactions, and those are all part of a life lived a thousand miles away. If you look at the event as a catalyst for other events, then yes, it has had an impact on my life, but not nearly to the extent that it has for the men and women who created the Tribute Center. Our guide kept talking about a "mission" - to him, the Tribute Center is his mission; to remember his son and all the others who were killed that day. I couldn't help but think that he's fighting a losing battle. It's been nearly seven years. People treat it like they would any other construction site - that is, they walk by it and watch for debris. Bitch about the noise. I could wax philosophical about that, but I don't feel comfortable making a statement about a place of which I know very little.

A less-serious post to come.

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