Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

At Ground Zero, Uncertainty over How to Pay Respects ; Visitors at a New Observation Deck Uneasily Balance Reverence with Clicking Cameras

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

At Ground Zero, Uncertainty over How to Pay Respects ; Visitors at a New Observation Deck Uneasily Balance Reverence with Clicking Cameras

Article excerpt

Leaning against a police barricade within eyeshot of ground zero, Carrie Newton can tune out a traffic officer yelling at pedestrians in the street, but she can't ignore all the cameras around her.

"I would never take pictures here," says the lawyer from Chicago. "It's a grave site. [Taking photos] cheapens it."

A few feet away, Greg Simington videotapes a crane arm raising shards of metal. But he does this after closing his teary eyes and praying, "God raise the souls that are still lingering around here." Disrespect, as he and his wife, Vindia, see it, comes not from cameras but from souvenir stands.

"To me, this is sacred ground right now," says Vindia, who came with Greg from Chicago just to bear witness at ground zero. Vending NYPD hats and patriotic buttons "seems so much like profiting off misery."

Ever since the World Trade Center collapsed Sept. 11 and the search for bodies began, ground zero has commanded the reverence of a shrine at the end of a pilgrimage. But with the opening of an observation platform Dec. 30, some visitors worry that the site could become one more tourist attraction, albeit a unique one.

That concern has habitually casual tourists asking atypically self-conscious questions about which behaviors honor a sacred burial ground and which ones might desecrate it. As the search for answers grows, so also do the debates - and the awkward moments of uncertainty.

Feeling disoriented at ground zero is par for the course, even for New Yorkers, who constantly remark on all the sunlight. In the past, this patch of lower Manhattan was all shadows from the world's tallest skyscrapers. Now, the thousands who shiver in line for as many as three hours en route to the observation deck find themselves squinting in a blinding reminder of all that was and is no more.

On another level, the cavernous void seems a metaphor for the daunting task of paying proper respects without any headstones or name lists to venerate. Early visitors left enduring memorabilia, from T-shirts on a church gate to wreaths and flags on a chain-link fence. Today's pilgrims grasp for ways to contribute without doing harm, but in their own eyes, certain attempts seem to come up short. …

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