As we walk diagonally across the Memorial, Steven* in true gentlemanly fashion is carrying the bag containing the head sets. On this walking tour, I am the lead docent and Steven is my support person. Steven is new to the program and is a little apprehensive but when he speaks of “his guys” you hear and see his passion and expertise. You see the firefighter. It makes me smile how the firefighters Steven included always try to take care of me. I have carried that bag back to the Tribute Center many times through the ten years I have been volunteering. I appreciate the gesture. I am grateful but I am capable. I am not the “little FDNY widow”. In reality, Steven is actually shorter than I am and we are about the same age.
The Memorial is busy. There is a gentle buzz of activity. I notice faces of visitors from many nations, hear softly spoken words, see tears being wiped, selfies being snapped and the sound of the south waterfall. As we walk along Steven suddenly comments “We (FDNY) never called it Ground Zero.” We stop walking and I nod in agreement. The media said Ground Zero and to me that term Ground Zero always brought the image of a red and white target. Steven continues “We called it the Pile and as we got lower we called it the Pit.”
The Pile I had seen that for myself on September 28, 2001. I remember that massive hole (the Pit) in the ground from when I started volunteering at the Tribute Center in 2006. We continue walking and I add “and now it is the Plaza.” He nods in agreement.
Our conversation confirms in my mind something I had been pondering for a while, this place and I had been on parallel journeys since September 11, 2001. The World Trade Center which I had only visited twice before the attacks had become a travel companion. We had weathered the attacks, sorted through the debris, filled the void and remembered those we lost as we continued on.
*name has been changed