"Hawkers Of 9/11 Porn"

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by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

I have worked in 100 Church Street for the past 11 years.  Here are my experiences of the day and the aftermath.

On 9/11, I bought my muffin from the Farmer's Market that set up outside of the WTC around 8:00 am and went to my office.  When the first plane hit, we looked out the windows and saw paper floating down from the sky.  So my co-workers and I went downstairs to West Broadway and saw the fire in the tower.  People were screaming and my co-worker said that people were jumping out of the building.  At that, they said I turned white. I went back to my office and put on the radio to see if I could find out what was going on.  The second plane hit and my whole buildng shook.  Everyone panicked and went to the emergency exits. Upon reaching Church Street, I saw a plane engine in the middle of the road.  At that point I assumed a lot of my work friends were dead from falling debris, as everyone had been milling around outside.  I remembered from the first terror attack stories that they had tried to topple the buildings into one another like dominoes, so for that reason I headed northeast up to Chinatown. From there I saw the exodus after the buildings collapsed.

By that point I was cursing Muslims and Arabs and I just wanted them to die or leave our country.  I got through the day and the days after, learning that no one in my office had died.  However, a fireman I knew was killed, and eventually my brother-in-law died of cancer that may have been caused by the time in the pit.

But you know, after a few days my hatred of Muslims/Arabs went away. 

I thought of my Muslim friends and the business owners I had come into contact with and the kind of people they are.  Maybe I've been lucky, but the Muslims I've known are the nicest, most "Christian" people I have ever met in my life.  Maybe also it's the way I grew up, going to a Catholic school where as a white guy I was the minority (mostly Spanish), then playing basketball with mostly African-Americans, and then working with gay people. I came to realize that individuals cannot be judged by the actions of a few and that most people are just trying to get through this life and provide for their family the best they can.

Back to the neighborhood.  Upon returning in March 2002, it was somber, but you went back to your old lunch spots and you were happy to see those people.  Economically they were hard hit, and you wanted to spend your money to help these businesses. And many of the establishments, vending carts, and shops are run by Arabs.  I don't think anyone ever asked what religion they were. We were all joined by this tragedy and just wanted to get through it by doing the only thing we new how to do: live.

The one thing that annoyed me and still does to this Tumblr_krma42D4521qa90sro1_500day are the hawkers of 9/11 porn, the guys who sell the picture books of 9/11 and the aftermath to tourists.  This to me is the real perversion of the area.  A buck being made off this tragedy and people wanting to flip through this book, as if it was any other tourist site, and then go through the things they purchased at Century 21 and J&R.

Anyone who thinks it is solemn down here has never been.  It is more like a circus, with tourists and their  cameras and their purchases.  I guess they come to honor those who died, but it doesn's seem that way.  There is a Catholic Church and a Christian (Episcopal?); how many people are stopping into them to prayer for the dead?  I'm sure it is a small fraction of those who go to Century 21 and J&R.

To me, and I believe to most NYers, Ground Zero is a work site.  I can go weeks without looking at it and then as with last week I was shocked at how tall the buildings had gotten.  I don't care what they do with the site put up a tower, a public memorial obviously but also something private for the families who lost loved ones seems appropriate.  I just don't want to see it commercialized (key chains, post cards, books).  That to me is what seems disrespectful.

But life goes on. This neighborhood has become yuppie heaven, with more people living here then ever before.  But the shops still struggle, there are still homeless, still bars serving the construction workers, still a strip club, still junk stores and still a mosque - two further blocks down from the planned Cordoba center.  And if you walk by before or after afternoon prayer, you will see the Muslims gathered outside -  government and business workers, shop owners, street vendors.  Just more Americans trying to get by as best they can in this life.

(Top photo by Zoe Strauss. Side photo from "Hot Chicks Smiling At Ground Zero".)

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