New York, Sept. 11: At Ground Zero, this being the land of the free market, tragedy has been turned into T-shirts. A year after the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, business has never been brisker for the street traders selling souvenirs commemorating the day which convulsed America.
Tourists continue to pour in from all corners of the globe to see the buildings which are no longer there. In fact, the supreme irony is that the twin towers must constitute the most famous non-existent landmark in the world.
Offered for sale are everything from T-shirts, celebrating the heroism of the New York firefighters, to photographs and paintings of the twin towers.
“They love tourists,” commented Geeta Patel, a fashion designer who shifted from Wembley in London to New York after marriage three years ago. For $20, the tourist can buy a pair of evocative black and white photographs of the site, one with the twin towers and the other without. “Before and after,” the seller said with a smile.
A few traders had set up video recordings of TV coverage of September 11 last year to ensure public sentiment was milked for all it was worth.
Ground Zero itself, the square where the collapsed towers once stood, has now been cleared and fenced off. Though construction workers have done a remarkable job, the wounds are too raw and too deep for any decision to be taken on what, if anything, should replace that which has gone.
Publishers, too, seizing a commercial opportunity, have flooded the market with 9/11 books.
At Barnes & Noble, a large New York book store, the following new titles all dealt with effectively the same subject: A Tribute: Faces of Ground Zero, Stepping through the Ashes, Requiem: So Others Might Live, Women at Ground Zero, Portraits of 9/11/01, In Search of America, Men of Steel: The Day Our World Changed and What We Saw.
Nor was this an exhaustive list. An adjacent shelf carried more in the same vein: The American Spirit; One Year after 9-11 and A Nation Changed.
A year ago the world had watched the horror unfold live on television. But TV coverage, however graphic, can never fully explain the trauma from which New Yorkers still suffer.
The American media has done an excellent job save in one respect. It has done a disservice by giving the world the impression that this was a tragedy which affected only white America.
The sense of nervousness in New York has been increased by world leaders gathering for the UN General Assembly. The Waldorf Hotel, which will be Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s luxurious home for the next few days, has been sealed off by police officers and their cars bearing the legend: “NYPD”.
It seems New Yorkers are doing their best to scare themselves on the first anniversary of 9/11. In Times Square, the large electronic board, which relays live news, kept reporting that fighter jets were patrolling the skies above New York and Washington.
In the square, groups of firemen posed for photographs with pretty girls from all over the world. They were the new heroes of America. And, of course, there was a busy trade in T-shirts, $3 each, or $10 for four.
Especially cool were the “I love New York” T-shirts.