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Queens Chronicle

June 6, 2002

No Closing The Hole In Our Hearts

Uniformed personnel, construction crews and family members give a final salute to the last steel beam removed from Ground Zero during a ceremony last week. With the former World Trade Center site cleared nine months after September’s terrorist attacks, the city faces the daunting task of rebuilding lower Manhattan and coming to terms with an uncertain future. (photo by Pete Matthews)  

Sunday’s memorial service for families of the more than 2,800 victims of the World Trade Center attack was dubbed the Ground Zero Closing Ceremony, but there will be no closing the gap in the city’s skyline. It is a constant and startling reminder of the lives lost there.

Although the 16-acre hole in lower Manhattan will eventually be filled with a permanent memorial as well as valuable commercial real estate, there is little that can be done to close the hole in our hearts when we realize that the remains of 1,730 innocent people lost on September 11th will never be retrieved.

After almost nine months, it is still virtually impossible for those who lost loved ones, or any of us for that matter, to grasp that the phrase ashes to ashes and dust to dust can be quite literally demonstrated. It’s no wonder many family members expressed dissatisfaction with the city’s official ground zero ceremony held last Thursday. For those who are still grieving a very personal loss, there is little comfort to be found in a public event marking the end of recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site.

Families of the hundreds of firefighters, police officers and emergency personnel who perished in the September attack feel no more or less grief than families of the thousands who spent their work week in the less notably heroic pursuits of bond trading, answering phones, maintaining buildings or waiting on tables at Windows on the World.

But the camaraderie and sense of community that pervades the city’s uniformed service workers brought thousands of supporters to the funerals and memorial services of firefighters and police officers throughout the borough in the past nine months. They died heroes. However, ceremonies marking the passing of others who were killed that fateful Tuesday often went unnoticed and unattended by any but the closest family members, friends and co-workers.

Schoolchildren illustrated cards and collected pennies for members of their local firehouse or police precinct and whole communities donated thousands of dollars to the many charitable funds initiated to ease the financial burden of those affected by the horror of September 11th. Yet few knew how to express their condolences to the thousands of parents, husbands, wives and children who lost a loved one to the senseless violence of terrorism.

Even those of us who were not touched by a personal loss on September 11th shared the fear and horror of that day. We still share the bereavement. The grieving process, although different for all of us, will take time to work through. Whether we feel anger, depression, guilt or denial, one glance at the Manhattan skyline is enough to remind us that we have changed—our city, our lives, even the way we think, are different now.

Although we can no more fill the gap in our skyline or the empty space in our hearts than we can bring back those who were lost nine months ago, we can make sure all the victims of that terrorist attack are never forgotten.

Whatever memorial is eventually decided upon, we must make sure that the waiter from Woodside, the electrician from Jackson Heights, the secretary from Flushing, the insurance broker from Forest Hills and the accountant from South Richmond Hill are remembered as well as the police officer from Ridgewood and the firefighter from Long Island City.


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