11 September 2016

The 9/11 Memorial Trail

You all know what happened fifteen years ago today.  In fact, you probably remember where you were that day.  Perhaps you knew someone who lost a family member or someone else he or she loved; you may know someone who was affected in some other way, whether physically or emotionally.

On this date last year, I wrote about a particular source of the shock and grief that day's events generated:  a lot of people, including a messenger whose bike was found a month later, went to work but never made it home.  As terrible as the deaths of firefighters and police officers were, they go to work every day with the knowledge they might not see their families or friends at the end of the day.  Messengers, as well as accountant, lawyers, maintenance mechanics and most other kinds of workers and professionals, do not have that spectre hanging over them:  They know that, barring some sort of accident, on any given day they are unlikely to encounter any situation that will end their lives before the day is over.  

I have been fortunate in that sense:  Through nearly all of my working life, I have been in jobs and professions where there was little chance of encountering any life-threatening danger.  Even when I was a bike messenger--arguably the most dangerous job I had--my situation was safer than that of any police officer or firefighter.  Even though I was living alone, there are people who would have been shocked by my not making it through the day.

On this date two years ago, I wrote about a bicycle rack recovered from the ruins of the World Trade Center.  When I learned about it, all I could think about were the people who rode the bikes locked to it. (At the time I wrote, only one bicycle had been claimed.)  Did they commute to offices in the Towers?  Did they live or work in the nearby buildings, stores, coffee shops or other businesses that served the ones high above lower Manhattan?   Were they among the ones who never made it home?  Or were they so traumatized that they didn't retrieve their bikes--or that they left New York altogether?

In the end, there really is no way to ameliorate or memorialize not only those for whom, to paraphrase Albert Camus, death came out of the clear blue sky, but those who have yet to recover the possessions, jobs, lifestyles and sense of themselves they might have had before disaster struck.  And that is exactly the reason why we try, and must continue to do so, in whatever ways we can.

One group of people who is commemorating the tragedies of that day fifteen years ago is doing so in a unique way:  They are creating the 9/11 Memorial Trail, which will connect the World Trade Center  with the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania:  the sites of that day's attacks.  Some of the network will consist of already-existing lanes such as the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath, the Delaware and Raritan Canal towpath and sections of the East Coast Greenway.  When finished, the network will be a 1300 mile (2100 kilometer) triangle linking the three sites.

Along the Delaware and Raritan Canal towpath, which would become part of the 9/11 Memorial Trail.

As much as I love the idea of the trail, and hope to pedal the parts of it I haven't already ridden, I also hope that no more such memorials will be necessary.

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