six days at ground zero
sept 13 - 19, 2001
the trip so far...     contact kevin & aimee

 << Back to Day 15, Rhode Is.

Sept 11, 2001
The Pier
The Early Volunteers
Crossing the Hudson
First Sight
The Observation Room
Change of Priorities
The Scariest Night
Avoiding Detection
Selected Stories from GZ
Spirit of New York
More Stories from GZ
The OEM Arrives
The People
Back To The Real World
Thank You, To Everyone

Chronicle Journal, Sept 13
Personal Journal Documents Days Events

Chronicle Journal, Sept 17
Lakehead Grads in on Intense Volunteer Support Effort

NY Daily News, Sept 17
Camping at Ground Zero

Chronicle Journal, Sept 20
Hope, Horror Clearly Visible in New York

Back to the Real World
Returning to the Real World was like waking up from a dream. The police boat pulled into the Jersey pier at 70 Hudson Street, the same pier we left from six long days ago, but the pier was empty. There was no bustle of volunteers, no pallettes of Poland Spring, no frantic production lines moving supplies this way and that... just a small crowd of people standing beyond the gate, waiting for the NY Waterway to ferry them over the river.

Here it was, one week after the attack; the rest of the world had already gone through disbelief, sadness, anger, pride, and now, a degree of complacency. Life started up again while we were at Ground Zero. Commuters were in their blue shirts and yellow ties, chatting away on their cell phones about girlfriends or conference calls or shopping. A cop reading a magazine sat by a small gate, enough security to keep unsuspecting people from foolishly running out and leaping from the pier when no boat was nearby. After all, safety first... someone needs to take care of us.

The police cruiser pulled up to the very tall dock, perhaps three feet taller than the boat. I jumped up first, gave Aimee a hand, and waved goodbye to Hodge and the other two officers. The police boat pulled away, and we made our way to the small gate. The guard hardly looked up when we opened the gates from the inside.

We must have looked so odd. I was wearing a two day old Mountain Dew Code Red shirt, covered in flecks of dirt and hand prints. My pants were a different shade around the ankles with all the mud and dust I'd tracked through. My black shoes were now a light grey, and my hat had so much dust and asbestos and sweat caked on it that it could easily been classified as hazardous materials. I can still probably send away for the sticker.

Aimee was wearing her bandana, cargo pants and a donated women's T-shirt with a weird little cat on it. Her dust mask was still around her neck. She had a line of masking tape across her back that read "Want a hug? Ask me!" and her name on a smaller piece on her front. We still had our ID badges on, and we both looked absolutely exhausted.

We passed through the crowd, earning a few stares. We felt out of phase with the rest of the world. Everyone else had gone on with their lives, were back to work, back to worrying about the little things in life. We walked up the street, oblivious to what was going on around us.

We laughed out loud when we saw our car. The entire walk back, both of us were saying over and over, "please let the car be there... please let the car be there..." After all, we had parked thinking we were only going to be there a few hours. It had been six days. We laughed and jumped and hugged the car. After all, the last thing we needed that night was a visit to the impound lot. But I guess the Jersey City police had been pretty relaxed on parking due to the circumstances. Parking was the least of their worries.

The drive back to Union City was just plain weird. We didn't speak; we were too tired. We didn't seem to care if we were driving too slowly, or if we couldn't get a parking space. The little silly rules we're all used to following had no meaning anymore, like seeing the No Smoking and No Rollerblading signs at Ground Zero. You could say we felt above the law, in a way. I wouldn't have cared if we'd been pulled over, ran a red, parked in a crosswalk... when you've just been where we were, sleeping wherever there's a blanket, eating wherever there's food, it really doesn't matter. In the wake a tragedy like this, what do I care about 32 dollars for parking in a bus stop?

We slept in a soft bed that night. We thought about the days before, sleeping on the deck of the Spirit, sleeping on the marble floor of the AmEx building, next to the flower shop, the firefighter who was just lying on the ground, still in full gear, to tired to remove even his helmet. Was it fair that we were comfortable and he was not? They were working in shifts, weren't they? They could have gone home, right?

We felt guilty, but we slept. For the first time in six days, we really slept.

Current Location
Union City, NJ

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© 2001. Kevin Beimers and Aimee Lingman.