(Wayne's photos at bottom of this page)
I went to New York City today--exactly one month to the day after I had lunch on the 107th floor of World Trade Center Tower #1.  After that lunch, I called  my mother from the lobby of the (now destroyed) WTC Marriott, where I have stayed during the Big East Tournament.
Inspiration for this trip came from friend Paul who heard New York City sportscaster Warner Wolf Saturday suggest people come "to see what they've done to our city."
I balked initially, not wanting to be a "rubbernecker," but when Paul told me the "see what they've done" line, I went along with it, not sure what I'd see.
Traffic was light as we drove down the West Side Highway.  We could see the remaining smoke screen from 79th Street. We got off at the detour about 34th street (WCBS had said it was closed below 42nd St).  Then a street parking spot opened at 9th and 19th, a short walk from the A train. 
I knew from a television report Saturday that the Chambers Street/WTC station was still intact, but the trains no longer stop there.  I was in the very front of the first subway car, looking out the front window as the train slowed to a crawl in that area--presumably to spot debris, but perhaps to avoid excessive vibration under ground zero.  I'm not exactly sure how close those tracks are to ground zero, but close enough. It was eerie knowing what lay above.  The station was only slightly smoky, but you could smell it.  The train continued to the next stop--Nassau/Broadway--maybe a half mile east of the epicenter.  It was still a little smoky--after five days.
Under the faint hope I could get better access with a media pass, we took the short but roundabout walk (due to construction/repair work), under the western terminus of the closed Brooklyn Bridge, and up to "PP1"--Police Plaza One.  After talking to officers I didn't try to get a credential--partly due to the 2.5 hour wait and partly because Paul couldn't get one and it made no sense to split up.
Among the early images we saw were many poster photos of the missing on poles, windows, and walls.  Most of those victims were on the 100th floor and up.  A local hospital had a lot of them posted on its front window.

National Guard troops in full dress, some wearing gas masks, gave the area a war zone feel--more than the many NYPD officers did.  Most of the intersections had portable lights brought in for nights.  Several buildings--including hospitals--had generators working.  The traffic lights worked.
Maybe the most emotional thing I saw was a small bush.  On top of the bush was a weather-beaten piece of 8 x 11" paper.  It had information about someone's trip to Monte Carlo in a Q & A form, as if being scripted for a slide show or video voiceover.  The paper had clearly been there since Tuesday, without being removed by souvenir hunters, and because of Friday's rain, had actually molded to the shape of the top of the bush.  A few feet away in that same bush were two ladies shoes, pointing in the direction away from the WTC.  Apparently in her haste to get away, the shoes got tangled in the bush, or she decided she could run faster without them.  I took photos of the paper and the shoes, and while we were there, an officer came over and took the shoes away.  To me they symbolized the horror.
Later we saw a parking lot with many individual pieces of paper randomly distributed.  Obviously from WTC offices.  This was several blocks away.
There were several cars covered with muddy silt--caked on by Friday's rain.

Occasionally in this area my eyes began to burn a little.  But it was tolerable.  Paul said on the drive home he could feel it in his lungs.  I didn't.
Often you could see bright patches of blue sky above the smaller buildings.  A week ago the WTC towers would obscure the sky from that location.  It was hard to know exactly where the towers were, but we knew the approximate spot.
Considering the magnitude of this event, there weren't that many rubberneckers.  All were well behaved and orderly.  And fairly quiet.
We walked on Wall Street, and saw the New York Stock Exchange with a large American Flag over the front.  I'm sure that image will be prominently displayed when it opens Monday.  I will buy some stock Monday.  Don't know what yet. [I later did]
We saw many media types walking where the general public was.  We talked with camera crews from Chile and Italy, and stood 10 feet from CNN's Garrick Utley while he did a short standup piece about "the first terrorist attack on US soil"--a bomb at the Morgan Street Bank in 1920. That location was behind him as he spoke.  We talked briefly with him.  He lives uptown on Madison Avenue.  Later we happened to share an uptown subway car with him and his three-man crew.  He's about 6'6".  He wore sneakers.
We never saw ground zero, and were 2-3 blocks from it at the closest.
As we walked from the subway stop back to the car, we stopped to purchase small red white and blue ribbons from a couple on 9th Avenue who were selling them from their doorstep with a can saying "to help the victims families."  I've heard there are scam artists around, but they had a small shrine out near the curb with many candles and notes.  They looked legit.  I have to say that having bought that small token in NYC means more than having gotten one elsewhere.
Then I went into a card store, and was surprised to find postcards remaining which showed the WTC.  I bought four--including a beautiful shot taken from beyond the Statue of Liberty.   $1 a card seemed steep, but I'm glad I have them.
We drove up 8th Avenue unsuccessfully looking for a NY Times.  We passed a midtown fire department which apparently lost 15 men.  The house was quite the center of activity, with candles, photos of the men, and a lot of spectators.
In the theater district we saw a restaurant named "Kabul."  Afghani I presume.  Didn't look too busy.
Which brings me to another important observation.  Many of the people in the WTC area had a patriotic look. Many wore red white and blue.  A large group of rollerbladers started off around PP1--all of whom had flags of various sizes.  And I saw many people who appeared to have foreign roots--Asian, Middle East, Latino--all carrying the AMERICAN flag.
I brought my recorder but never used it.
And a warm finish to a very moving day:  We saw many, many flags on the trip--on cars, apartments, businesses, and bridges, including some flags placed near the top of some of the tall buildings around the WTC.   On I-84 Eastbound in Cheshire, a fire truck was parked over a bridge, and several firemen were waving a large flag at us.  We tooted.

While I didn't see what I expected to see around the WTC, I'm glad I made the trip.  Images that won't be forgotten.
I'm PROUD to be an American.
The shoe--heading away from the towers
Papers from office windows molded to the top of bushes by midweek rain 
One of the papers
The towers used to be seen from atop the stairs
Five days later there was still a haze in the air
The New York Stock Exchange has the horizontal American flag on the front
A nearby parking lot, littered with papers from the towers
One of many cars that hadn't moved in five days, with Tuesday's dust caked on by later rains

Wayne went to the 911 Memorial on August 12, 2012 and took these pictures--

The view of the new Freedom Tower after getting off the subway

The Freedom Tower as viewed from the 911 Memorial site

The footprint of the south tower

Then Wayne completed the day with a visit to Lady Liberty

Illustration by frequent Wayne Norman morning show guest Wendell Minor, from his book "America The Beautiful"
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