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

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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

First Sight
We weren't really sure what we were expecting. Perhaps pure hell with dead bodies everywhere, or perhaps a normal city street with an inch thick layer of dust. We wouldn't fully realize where we were or the enormity of it all until the sun rose the next day.

We spent the rest of the night assisting very wet firemen. Within five minutes of being there, we both gave up our rain jackets to much needier firemen and started assisting them in finding dry shoes, socks and clothing. The night passed very quickly and it's fuzzy whether anything more significant than helping the men happened to us that night.

We didn't sleep that night. There was always a boat to be unloaded or someone who needed a dry shirt. There was so much to do there wasn't time to think, but somehow, everyone knew where they needed to be.

We got our first look at the wreckage that night. A member of the Salvation Army asked us if we would help her bring clothes to the front line. We boxed up sweaters and sweatpants and socks, put them into an abandoned shopping cart, and headed for The Pit.

We passed through one of the buildings of the World Financial Center to reach the drop zone. For the first time, we were able to recognize remnants of what this world used to be, and how the rules had changed in the wake of this disaster. We walked through an underground concourse, caked in two inches of dust and water and muck, fire hoses strewn everywhere, yet there was still evidence of the stores that used to operate. Starbucks had become a storage room for supplies. A bar and grill was piled high with medical equipment. The window of a Pier 1 Furniture store had been smashed, and exhausted rescue workers were sleeping on the comfortable couches and chairs. Everywhere you looked you saw wreckage combined with perfectly preserved specimens of ordinary life. In one display case stood three mannequins dressed in the latest fall fashions, free from the surrounding dust and muck.

Occasionally stopping to offer a dry shirt, we padded quietly past the sleeping firemen and made our way out of the west door. We were out in the open again, in one of the courtyards of the World Financial Center, which we recognized vaguely as the location of the Goodwill Games opening ceremony we had attended only two years earlier. Though now, it was dark and raining, covered with dump trucks and huge heavy machinery, and the grounds were ankle deep in mud and litter.

We reached the corner and turned left, under a pedestrian overpass that was still intact, and we saw The Pit for the first time. Two buildings, 110 stories each, had collapsed to a pile of rubble no more than five stories high. Rescue workers, illuminated by their yellow rain slicks, were scrambling over the pile with shovels and buckets, searching for any sign of life. Backhoes were digging; torches were flaring, attempting to cut through the steel girders that no longer supported the buildings. And all the while, ambulances waited patiently by the side, praying to be busier than they were.

In a nutshell, it was an absolute mess. We peddled our wares to a few of the firemen in the Amex building, made sure that they all had dry shirts and fresh socks, and before we made our way back to the docks we draped a Yankees coat over a twisted sign that used to be in the lobby. We took a last look at the pile, unsure when we would have another chance to see it.

An absolute mess.

Current Location
Downtown Manhattan

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© 2001. Kevin Beimers and Aimee Lingman.