Gound Zero is always bustling with tourists. On this particular winter morning more than 70 people were gathered at the site; yet, a deafening silence prevailed. The noise of water cascading into the pool was the only sound dominating the senses, reminiscent of the panic felt by thousands after the attack.
The World Trade Centre’s twin towers, which were once the tallest buildings in the world, are now a monument of agony, despair and resentment. I knew I had to visit the site as soon as I landed in New York. Before heading out, I sensed some nervousness; after all, I had a green passport. The restlessness, however, dissipated when I stepped foot on Ground Zero in front of the plaza that has been built to commemorate the September 11 attacks of 2001, which killed nearly 3,000 people, and the bombing of 1993, which killed six.
The two square-shaped 9/11 Memorials, speak volumes for themselves just as the 3,000 names engraved on them do. As you walk closer, you can see the freshly laid flowers and the flag of America put on many of these names. The love bestowed upon them is a sad reminder of the pain people who lost their loved ones live with everyday. I felt more burdened as these lives, along with the many that were lost in the name of ‘war on terror’, changed my identity as a Pakistani. But standing in the middle of many, watching the water slowly vanish into the black hole just as the people who left us, my identity mattered no more.
But Ground Zero does not allow you to wallow in your sorrows for long. As you walk away from the monuments towards the northwest corner of the site you are soon captivated by the tall building adorned with mirror reflectors standing right in front of you. The Freedom Tower or One World Trade Centre, it is the nation’s tallest skyscraper.
The Freedom Tower echoes its name and gives hope for a new beginning as it takes you 1,250 feet above the ground in ‘sky pod’ elevators to an observatory. The building that opened last year in November has 104 floors and the observatory occupies floors 100-102, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas, letting you see as far as Philadelphia. The Tower is not just another tall building in New York but a ray of hope and triumph, symbolising the long struggle to stand tall against all odds.
From such a height, one can see the length and breadth of the city and get a sense of its history and culture. From the Empire State building to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, everything illustrates America’s struggle to reach new heights and conquer its fears.
Nisma Chauhan is a subeditor at the magazine desk. She tweets @ChauhanNisma
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, December 13th, 2015.
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