ignores vultures at sacred site
On the way uptown, you paused on that sacred stretch of Church Ave.
where Firefighter Christopher Engeldrum helped raise a torn American
flag over the fiery ruins of the World Trade Center.
Engeldrum was also with the New York Army National Guard, and he
was killed Monday in Iraq. His mortal remains were making the long
journey home as you stood where he had stood three years and three
is sure whatever happened to that torn flag, but a bigger Stars
and Stripes flies from a pole just on the other side of the fence
that now runs along the edge of The Pit. You watched this flag rippling
in the brisk breeze against yesterday morning's porcelain blue sky.
dollars," a voice then said.
voice belonged to a young man in a black winter coat who was holding
an open photo book of the attack on the World Trade Center. You
replied with as much disgust as you could express in a single syllable.
flipped the pages. The planes flying into the buildings. Firefighters
and police officers dashing inside. A jumper plummeting from the
burning north tower. The towers collapsing.
dollars?" he asked.
turned away. He called after you.
walked off down the broad sidewalk that runs along the fence. The
pavement is Port Authority property, within the perimeter where
such ghoulish sales are prohibited.
one can sell items within the perimeter, period. No permits apply,"
PA Police Capt. Susan Durett said on Nov. 17.
PA cops say they make periodic "sweeps," but the dozen
peddlers at work yesterday morning included two who were hawking
not 20 feet from a sign reading "Port Authority WTC Command."
This could only be seen as a direct insult to a department that
suffered such horrific losses on 9/11.
approached and one of the peddlers turned toward you, holding out
a photo album. One picture showed the fire rig on which a dear friend
had ridden to his death.
give you for $10," the peddler said.
again turned away, only to encounter yet another peddler, this a
woman who held a book whose cover bore the word "Tragedy"
in blood-red letters.
dollars," this woman said. "Two for fifteen."
then became aware of Christmas music coming from a portable sound
system set up by two of the sidewalk solicitors the Salvation Army
fields every holiday season. The solicitors each rang one of the
handbells whose sound is synonymous with Christmas in Manhattan
and you thought of all the 9/11 families who face another holiday
without their loved one.
Hear them ring. You watched two peddlers hurry over to where visitors
were trooping off a pair of tour buses. The peddlers made a half-dozen
quick sales and you could not help but feel that the people who
buy this stuff are nearly as bad as those who hawk it.
of the peddlers got a call on his cell phone and spoke in what sounded
like Russian. Minutes later, a third peddler with a black shoulder
bag appeared and they all shook hands.
three then accosted another group of tourists gathering near the
Port Authority WTC command. The peddlers appeared not the least
bit concerned about a Port Authority cop who sat in a marked car
parked at the curb.
were striding away when the cop suddenly appeared at your side.
He asked to see some identification.
saw you marking things down," he said.
sought to allay any concern that you were conducting surveillance
on behalf of terrorists.
was taking notes about the peddlers," you said. "They're
all over the place."
offered no response and headed back to the car, pausing to give
two women directions. The peddlers continued to hawk their ghoulish
wares a few strides away. You thought of a 9/11 mother who told
you she could no longer bear to return to the site of her son's
death because of these spectres with photo books.
took one more look at where Engeldrum helped raise that torn flag.
The peddlers moved on to more tourists and those holiday bells kept
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