Six years ago, on the promise of a highly pleasurable afterlife and the approval of a series of bearded, well-connected authority figures, several childish fools exerted a great deal of effort and successfully destroyed two large buildings right next to where I now make my living. Whereupon all Americans reaped the results of decades of short-sighted foreign policy, regulatory blunders, a directed disenfranchisement of our middle class, and an infantilized disconnection from the consequences of any of a dozen easily-ignored problems.
Twenty months ago, my employer moved my company’s division into a building adjoining this site, which, having long since been excavated of debris, continued to occupy the attention of a great many well-connected authority figures. Deals were made, plans drawn up, political battles fought, and money exchanged hands… all to no apparent effect, apart from providing a continuing supply of slack-jawed tourists with (among other things) a shrine at which they could recommit to their paranoia, a background for their bored kids’ solemn snapshot portraits, and a pulpit upon which to reinforce their ignorance once back home.
My morning commute takes me from under that pit where all that debris came from, up several flights of steps and escalators from the train. Midway through this ascent, I reach the pit’s interior level, where construction workers generate noise (and apparently little else) most of the day. Twenty floors of vertical distance reduce the cacophony of jackhammers and explosives to a minor reminder of the industrial purgatory below. It rarely stops, possibly because of this location’s enormous natural unsuitability for heavy construction.
Pit level has remained constant through the years during which it has graduated from disaster site to eyesore. Temporary structures have risen, then made way for the annual ceremonies commemorating our intelligence agencies’ spectacular success in ignoring or burying vital information about people we’d trained, funded, and encouraged to hate us. Nothing significant has risen above this pit for over six years except noise, jingoistic speeches, billable hours for construction or police personnel, and commuters from New Jersey.
Perhaps this is because, until recently, the consortium charged with the site’s redevelopment had not yet finished revealing itself as a funnel for patronage and influence-peddling money transfers before a sufficient amount of public outrage could be coordinated to object to its naked mendacity.
When I first began using this route, I had noticed that, amidst the bustling, noisy activity of construction crews and police—all accomplishing nothing—one could see vegetation growing up through the gaps between the concrete and the temporary structures built to simulate the appearance of progress. Life was returning to a place which had been lifeless for hundreds of years. As the weather warmed, I began to spot specific foliage, struggling to grow into bona fide shrubs, making their way up from the depressing mess.
These bits of green looked great, and they cheered me up on mornings when I’d skipped breakfast or felt particularly dismal about having lived to see a time where citizens are matter-of-factly treated like criminals wherever they travel within the land of their birth. One tiny not-tree in particular became my brief companion twice a day. I would look forward to seeing it and even got a picture or two.
And then it was cut down, perhaps because the temporary staircase it grew within supported too many users who’d objected to the obstruction of their view. I saw it, or another shrub, struggle to grow back before its area was reconfigured to make way for more elaborate structures. A shame. It made me think about how quickly the natural world could take Manhattan back from our concrete if we were to allow such a thing to happen.
Pit level has risen. Dirt and framework have been piled in configurations which suggest something more than a ramp to allow access to heavy machinery. It’s still not high enough to obstruct my view from the commuter train.
I’m told construction has actually begun upon a project to replace the former World Trade Center. Another monument to excess and arrogance. Yay.
I look forward to living and working far away from this place someday soon.