I walked up to a plaza in New York, overlooked by towers stretching up to the cloud-spotted blue sky. Tourists gathered around a railing gazing into the ground. I thought of Rockefeller Center, great outdoor Christmas cathedral. But it was August, bright and hot, and I was all the way downtown, at the southern tip of Manhattan. One World Trade Center glimmered above me, and as I took my place among the crowds, 180 square feet of watery, black void greeted me instead of laughing ice skaters in bright hats and mittens. Water rushed down each wall, then slid relentlessly, inexorable, into the unfathomable depths of the heart of the square. I contemplated the names graven around the fountain, each someone who died within this plaza. My friend’s father told us to turn around for a photo. I struggled to arrange my face, to smile and pose at the site of 3,000 deaths and a gash through America’s pride and soul.
I thought of Rockefeller Center, palace of capitalism, crowed in snow and jewel-colored lights. But it was summer in lower Manhattan, and I forced my lips to upturn, here where America’s twin castles of commerce fell.