That day — part 4
Posted by Ron Coleman on September 11, 2008
I went downstairs and walked west. Perhaps they would, at some point, reopen the Lincoln Tunnel. I had to get through the tunnel to get home. Every other way to New Jersey was of limited value, because my car was parked in a park-and-ride lot just a mile or two on the west side of the tunnel. We live due west of the tunnel. No other way out seemed to make sense.
Senselessly, however — having neither a plan nor much sense left, being stunned by the day’s events — and rage, and a burning desire for revenge, welling up within me — I walked (the subways having been closed) towards the entrance to the tunnel.
I walked south, and alternately west, taking right-angle zig-zags along the rectangular pathways that delimit the miles upper Manhattan. My back and shoulder were already in pain — from the stress, of course, and the fact that I had, at the time, a serious disk “bulge” that was being treated. But I was not in the Towers, or even downtown; I was feeling a little more glad to be alive than I might on a typical morning of practicing civil litigation in New York; and I walked, hoping an answer would present itself.
As I got closer to Hell’s Kitchen, the West Side neighborhood where I’d studied for the bar on a sweltering August night 13 years before and the area where the tunnel entrances were, I began to hear rumors that perhaps the tunnel would be open to foot traffic — perhaps we would all walk the grit-encrusted two-and-a-half miles under the river bed of the Hudson, the way they did when they crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on foot during the great transit strike of the ’80’s, and reappear in the promised land of the Garden State. We actually milled around the block on Ninth Avenue and 39th waiting to see if this idiotic conception was true. All we saw were a lot of police officers, stunned as we were, and it became obvious after a while that no one was about to let anyone into that tunnel.
I kept walking west. To the river itself. Maybe I would swim home.
I crossed West Street, the west-most vehicular roadway on the Island, and joined a line forming in front of one of the commuter ferry lines. Word was they were ferrying anyone who could get on board across the water, for free.
West Street was filled with ambulances heading downtown. They were from neighboring cities and towns as well as those native to New York City. Mobile ICU’s from where I was trying to get had, somehow under the orders then in effect, been allowed over to the Jersey side (over the George Washington bride, I assume now, and back south to downtown) and were speeding to the site of the disaster where, we would soon learn, they would not be needed. It became obvious in the hours after the attack that the one contingency most focused on — the provision of emergency medical personnel and the staffing of emergency rooms and traige centers — would not be necessary today.
And for the first time, as I crossed West Street and cleared the walls of the marble canyons of Manhattan, I gazed toward the financial center and saw the smoldering remains of Ground Zero, burping thick black-grey smoke into the air, nothing visible down there but smoke, painfully reminiscent of nothing save the destruction of Sodom by the wrath of Heaven.