Dusty Cars – a 9/11 Story

Train Station 004 9/11 Victims from Basking Ridge NJ

A very large percentage of the people who died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 were train commuters from New Jersey. From my little town of Basking Ridge alone 17 people died on that day. So many New Jersey people worked at the World Trade Center since it was such an easy commute. Take the train to Hoboken; then the PATH train directly into the basement of the World Trade Center itself. Fast escalators took you to the lobby of the World Trade Center which was so full of stores it seemed more like a shopping mall than an office building. Huge elevators then  took you up into whichever tower you happened to work in. Some commuters did not even bother to bring a coat in the winter since they were almost never outside.

Train Station 001

When the towers went down, the destruction was so complete that most victims could not be identified. As the days and weeks went by, people began to wonder if a full count of the victims had been obtained. After all, what about the people who lived alone and had no family or friends to wonder where they were? So the NJ Transit Police began a search of every train station parking lot along all the lines that ran into Hoboken. They were looking for any cars that looked like they had been parked for a long time. They took down the license plate number of any cars with an unusual amount of dust, and then started the task of searching for the owners. Sometimes it turned out to be just a dirty car. Other times it was as they had feared. The car belonged to a 9/11 victim that no one had even been looking for.

Train Station 006

The PATH from Hoboken to the World Trade Center is operating again and has been doing so for a number of years. No one says they are taking the PATH to where the World Trade Center used to be; and no one says that are going to the Freedom Tower. We go to the World Trade Center. That is what it says on the PATH train, and that is what the speaker announcement says.

We commuters take the PATH to the World Trade Center and then up the fast escalators which now lead us directly outside to what apparently is a never-ending construction project. Large  groups of New York City police stand in circles, and teams of soldiers in camouflage uniforms carry M-16s and walk around in twos and threes. Early morning tourists from every country on Earth stand on blocks of cement and take pictures of themselves while smiling into the camera.

The commuters don’t stop for any of this.  The police, soldiers and tourists are just annoying obstacles we have to maneuver around in our rush to get to work on time.

Train Station 005

I purposely did not publish this story on 9/11.  That date has become too political. I never watch the annual  ceremonies from the site of the World Trade Center memorial. The podium there gets more crowded each year as politicians try to squeeze into the spotlight to further their own careers.

The commuters who died on 9/11 came from all different backgrounds and political persuasions. But their lives were not about the events of 9/11 in New York. Their lives were here, where they lived.

Unlike the politicians, I will never try to speak for the victims of 9/11. I don’t know what their views would be or what they would want to say. The only thing I know for certain that they had in common, is that they all should have come home that night.

Train Station 008

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