BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: In Depth: NYC Out of the ashes  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
NYC Out of the ashes Monday, 10 December, 2001, 14:52 GMT
Part two: Ground zero
Ground Zero
Peter Gould

Recovery teams are busy sifting through the rubble of the World Trade Center at "Ground zero". Peter Gould reports on how New Yorkers are dealing with the destruction in the heart of their city.

Arriving in New York for the first time since September 11, you discover that not even the television images can prepare you for the reality.

Driving into the city, your gaze is drawn towards the familiar skyline, now scarred by an act of terror.

To anyone who knows and loves this city, the gap where the World Trade Center stood brings a pang of loss.

You recall how the Twin Towers used to dwarf the rest of Manhattan.

You remember the time you stood on the top, taking in the incredible view.

Of course, the real loss is the human one, the 3,000 people who worked and died inside those walls.

Mass of rubble

Arriving at Ground Zero, you get another shock. Three months on, a haze of smoke and dust still hangs over the ruins of the World Trade Center.

Deep inside the mass of tangled steel and concrete rubble, there are still "hot spots", making this the longest-lasting structural fire in history.

The sights and the smells you encounter make this feel like the scene of a more recent disaster. The recovery teams have been here three months now, and the job is nowhere near finished.

Work continues day and night
Work continues day and night
Mayor Rudy Giuliani has warned it could take up to a year for the site to be cleared, even though work continues round the clock.

As night falls, I watch as construction workers cut into the stump of one of the towers, showers of sparks cascading to the ground.

Around me a small crowd is watching, taking photographs and looking at the shrine that has grown up along the railings of St Paul's Chapel.

Focus for grief

Andy Steurer, a volunteer from Gunnison, Colorado, has come here with members of his church to spend a few days helping out.

I talk to him as he hands out pens for people to record their thoughts on large sheets of canvas, amid the candles, the pictures and the poems.

Nearly 50 of these canvases have now been filled with messages of support, anger and love. When one is filled, it is carefully folded up and replaced with a new sheet.

"It is very inspiring to see what people have written," says Andy. "There is still a lot of hurt, and people are writing out their anguish."


There has been no goofing around. People have been very respectful, quite solemn

Police officer
They have come from all over the country, all over the world, from people of all ages. A second grade pupil from Akron, Ohio, sums up the thoughts of his class:

I feel sad for all the people who dide
Our thoughts are with you
Our hearts are broken
I love New York very mutch
Shawn

There is a poignant message from one of the lucky ones who escaped death:

Tower 1, 58th Floor, 9-11-01
Woke up late to go to work
Lost many friends and co-workers
Miss ya much

People seem drawn to Ground Zero. Many clearly feel a need to express their feelings. But not everyone is happy at what looks to them uncomfortably like disaster tourism.

As people point their cameras at the ruins, I listen to an argument between two New Yorkers.

Disaster tourism

"I can't believe these people are taking photographs," says a young woman indignantly. "It's disgusting. I mean, how many more photographs do we need of this?"

A middle-aged man listens, but shakes his head in disagreement. "People have lots of reasons for coming here," he replies.

"I think some of them just want to be able to pull the pictures out of a drawer to show their children, and tell them what happened."

It is not so much an argument as an exchange of views, New York style. Feelings are expressed with passion, but this is a city that has come together in its collective grief.


It is very inspiring to see what people have written. There is still a lot of hurt, and people are writing out their anguish

Andy Steurer, volunteer

"Got to go," says the woman. "You take care now," says the man.

A police officer keeping an eye on the crowd tells me she has been impressed with the demeanour of those who come here to stand and watch.

"There has been no goofing around," she says. "People have been very respectful, quite solemn."

For the recovery teams who work at Ground Zero, it is a grim task. Physically demanding, even dangerous amid the tangled wreckage, but also emotionally draining.

St Paul's Chapel, which forms part of the boundary to the site, has been turned into a support centre for the police officers, firefighters and construction workers.

Here, in the privacy of the church, they eat, sleep, receive treatment for their injuries... and let out their feelings.

"It's sanctuary," says Father Robert Deming. "Here they can break down and shed a few tears."

Links to more NYC Out of the ashes stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more NYC Out of the ashes stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes