National Geographic : 2002 Sep
NEW YORK CITY Canto II You know my neighborhood. Last September, the sidewalk in front of my home became the backdrop for news reporters showing the world the devastation. My neighborhood, TriBeCa, just north of ground zero, also be came a triage center when merchants threw open their doors to the injured and scared. It became a staging area for rescue workers searching for survivors in the smoldering rubble at the end of my street. And my corner was one where thou sands streamed to pay final respects to those lost in a national tragedy that played itself out in an American neighborhood. We had elementary schools and a canine day care center. We were also home to Miramax Films and some of the world's trendi est restaurants. We were an eclectic mix of artists, Wall Street brokers, and middle-class families. We are different now. Weary from the effort to recover and plagued by uncertainty, we are a neighborhood adrift. Paul, a neighbor, was the son of "homesteaders," middle-class families attracted here by city subsidies after the towers were built in the mid seventies. Like so many Americans, he decided to raise his own family where he grew up. A month after the attacks, he packed up and left. For how long? I asked. "Forever," he replied. A friend from uptown offered to walk me home one night. As we walked down my street, he grabbed my arm in alarm. "I know that smell," he said, of the ever present smoke in the night air, reminder of the fires still burning deep inside that diminishing pile. "I grew up next to a cemetery," he said. It was the smell of the crematorium. I watched one morning as a father walked his son to school down my street. Once proud skyscrapers stood vacant, their facades burned and stripped, their offices charred honeycombs. The son took his father's hand and asked, "Where is the future?" His father replied, "The future is everywhere around you, at all times." -DIANA KANE Nino's Restaurant on Canal Street offered round-the-clock respite to ground zero workers. Volunteers dished out stress relief (above) and free food (below).