The Ray's Pizza on 6th Avenue and 11th Street in the West Village has got to be the saddest thing I've ever seen in my life. All through downtown people have started to put up pictures of 'missing' loved ones, color photocopies blown up from wedding pictures, passport photos, a recent vacation, an office party, all with explanatory text: height: 5'10", 150 pounds, blonde hair, brown eyes, wearing charm pendant, worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, 104th story of Tower One.
Ray's is sort of a Village nexus, right in the shadow of the Old Jefferson courthouse and just close enough to NYU, and what started as a few sheets on the window has become a sort of memorial wall: the glass store window is full, stacked three or four sheets of paper high, and it's spilled over to the red brick building just west. When I stood on the street outside my apartment on Tuesday morning and watched the towers burn and then fall my wife and I were just stunned, numb. Something Jennifer said...I watched 5000 people die in 4 seconds. But it was all just surreal, just monumental, big numbers. Unthinkable. Impersonal. An earthquake in some foreign country, a statistic on the evening news transplanted in your backyard.
The moment I saw their pictures I started to cry. I've been holding it back for two days now, but it's all so fucking sad when you actually *see* their individual faces, the part in their hair, the smile, the guy who is only 31 but is already developing a bald spot, probably looks worse in the black-and-white photocopy than it actually is. The woman with her sister, or maybe it's her girlfriend, she's only 25, arms around each other and heads tilted in. The woman named Ginnie or Jennie or something with the amazing smile, the kind of magic rare photograph that captures the essence of a person and you fall in love with them instantly. A guy in a tuxedo, maybe from a wedding. Most of them seem to have worked for Cantor Fitz and Marsh McLennan and the few other companies that were unlucky enough to be housed in the 90s and 100s in tower one, at or above the first plane's impact.
They're all dead. They must be. It's just so shocking when you look at all their faces like that. I used to work up there, damn it. I know exactly what it's like up there. My desk was by the window on the 96th floor, middle of the east wall, right where the left side of the plane exited on the other side. I would have been killed instantly, or torn to bits by shrapnel, or burned to death with jet fuel if we were still working there. I read an article today which interviewed one of the original architects who said the building was designed like a tube, and the idea was that a jetliner impact would just rip through it like tissue paper; all the load is in the exterior walls, and the floors are just bladder supports to keep the steel rigid, to prevent it from bending in or out under stress. But planes are much bigger today than back then; they had modelled it for a 707 crash, and hadn't considered the heat of the jet fuel burning.
This wall is a kind of awful, sad monument to hope. All you need is a dollar for 5 color photocopies and a dream. Have you seen our Robert? Our Cynthia? I hope with every fiber in my being that even one of those people is alive, but having seen the impact and watched the tower burn, remembering where the three stairwells were, I just can't imagine those crappy exits weren't reduced to rubble by that plane, leaving those poor people trapped up there.
I stood at the corner of 6th and 11th and wept, for the first time since it happened. I don't know if that's a healthy thing or not...until today I thought that the horror I saw on Tuesday morning was the worst thing I'd ever have to witness.