Dreams Amid the Debris

Tourists Flock To Ground Zero

First, the World Trade Center was reduced to a pile of rubble. Four months later, that pile was reduced to a hole in the ground. And now, many Americans have been reduced to lining up for hours in the bitter cold to get free tickets to see what has become known as Ground Zero.

Ironically, the fallen World Trade Center attracts more tourists now than it ever did when it was standing, reports Correspondent Steve Hartman.

“Our whole purpose to come to New York was to see the site,” Kristin Sperry tells Hartman. Steve, a visitor from St. Louis, adds, “Since we’re here, we decided to take a couple of days and see the sights.
And this is one of the sights.”

“ I had to come, just to see it for myself,” says Troy, another visitor.

But when people like Troy step up to the edge, something powerful seems to wash over them and they become, not rubber-neckers, gawking, but American citizens, grieving.

“I said a prayer for the families, for the lives that were touched, the lives that were destroyed,” Troy says after stepping away from the site.

And because emotions at the site are so intense, so is the debate about what to do with it next. And because the clean-up effort is way ahead of schedule, New York may forces, sooner than it would like - to decide just what is to be done with those 16 acres.

Proposals already run the gamut from outlandish office buildings to nothing at all.

Monica Iken, founder of September’s Mission, was married just 11 months when her husband Michael died in the collapse of Tower 2.

“We honor those that were lost and we don’t build over crying souls,” she says, explaining why she is adamantly opposed to any plans for commercial use. “It’s a burial ground. And I will stand there and do whatever we have to do to get 16 acres and I know a human chain will form if we don’t - I can guarantee it.”

Meanwhile, across town - and a world away - dozens of architects are exhibiting their ideas. Designs include several that could only be described as post-modern skyscrapers.

As for leaving it undeveloped, one architect responded, “It’s too big a wound…it would be like leaving an open sore in the city.”

The only thing anyone seems to agree on is that there will have to be some kind of memorial. That’s why the New York/New Jersey Port Authority which owns the Trade Center site, has commissioned architect Bart Voorsanger.

Voorsanger’s job is to save pieces of debris for posterity, some of which may eventually find their way into a memorial.

“There is a kind of macabre beauty about it all,” he says of the debris he has collected. Pointing to one piece, he says, “This was taken like a pretzel and torqued into this incredible shape.”

So far, he has set aside everything from the largest beams to what passes for a large piece of glass. “Most of the glas simply melted, ” he says.

He has set aside about 100 items the archive, but the task has really taken a toll on Voorsanger. “It was a difficult time,” he says. “It became emotionally more and more difficult.”

But he is determined to find the most poignant - painful reminders.

“If we succeed with this memorial,” he says, “your grandchildren will go there and it will be as important to them as it is to you. And if we fail, your grandchildren will go there and say, 'I don’t know what everybody’s upset about.’ ”

No matter whether the memorial stands in the shadow of some giant office building, as the architects would like, or whether it stands alone, as Monica would like, two things are certain: If you build it, they will come. And if you don’t build it, they will come anyway.

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