Rockfordians visit World Trade Center Attack Ground Zero

Rockfordians visit World Trade Center Attack Ground Zero

By Rod Myers

By Rod Myers

Joanie Jones, an employee of Anderson Gardens and resident of Rockford, recently visited New York City and the site of the World Trade Center bombing. On Tuesday, Oct. 2, Joanie flew United Airlines from O’Hare field to Philadelphia to meet her husband, Ken, who was attending a series of business meetings. On Friday, Oct. 5, Joanie and her husband drove to Manhattan.

While still in New Jersey, the Joneses could see the smoke from Ground Zero. “We were 20 miles away, and the smoke from the fires beneath the WTC rubble was very evident,” said Joanie. It put a chill in the car. When the Joneses were traveling Highway 95, which parallels Manhattan, an eerie observation was made. “You could see a sizable gap in the sea of buildings in the south end of Manhattan.”

From Highway 95, they took the Lincoln Tunnel, which burrows under the Hudson River. When they exited the Lincoln Tunnel (they were in Manhattan), “we parked about a mile from Ground Zero and walked towards it from the north,” said Joanie. “It was a sunny day, but there was a bad haze from a combination of dust and fire smoke from the WTC added to the everyday smog of traffic. You could feel it on your skin right away; you wanted to wash it off as soon as possible. My husband had an instant headache from the dirty air. The smell of the air was no picnic, either.”

As they walked southward, things became surreal. “We saw mothers wearing air filters that resembled surgical masks and pushing baby carriages that were covered with an air screen wrap,” she explained. “They must have lived in the area. Why else would they bring small children out in that stuff?”

The Joneses entered a glass and steel walkway that went over a street. “The walkway had an excellent view of the WTC site, and for this reason, the walkway was jammed with people. Nobody was talking in there; all those people were standing, looking in awe, and no one said a word. That’s the way it was in the whole area. It was either awe, respect or shock, or a combination of all three. Joanie and Ken walked past a tent city where removal crews and other helpers were staying.

They reached a church two blocks from the WTC that was miraculously untouched. This was St. Paul’s Chapel, an Episcopal church at the junction of Liberty and Church streets, where George Washington had worshiped when he was president.

“All the buildings around it were down or badly damaged. People were going in and out of it. It must have been turned into a headquarters of some sort,” she said. “We saw ambulances leave the WTC site three times with no sirens going or flashing lights. “We heard that three victims were found that morning.”

Joanie took no pictures or videos. The images were forever etched in her memory. “It was all very surreal. I have no regret about going, but I would not want to go back. The images are with me forever.”

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in nature and the environment. He is a member of the Rockford Amateur Astronomers Club, the Sinnissippi Audubon Society, Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and the Planetary Society.

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