Day of Remembrance

This was not the first erasure on the site.  Before the towers had gone up, there had been a bustling network of little streets traversing this part of town.  Robinson Street, Laurens Street, College Place:  all of them had been obliterated in the 1960s to make way for the World Trade Center buildings, and all were forgotten now.  Gone, too, was the old Washington Market, the active piers, the fishwives, the Christian Syrian enclave that was established here in the late 1800s.  The Syrians, the Lebanese, and other people from the Levant had been pushed across the river to Brooklyn, where they’d set down roots on Atlantic Avenue and in Brooklyn Heights.  And, before that?  What Lenape paths lay buried beneath the rubble?  The site was a palimpsest, as was all the city, written, erased, rewritten.  There had been communities here before Columbus ever set sail, before Verrazano anchored his ships in the narrows, or the black Portugese slave trader Esteban Gomez sailed up the Hudson; human beings had lived here, built homes, and quarreled with their neighbors long before the Dutch ever saw a business opportunity in the rich furs and timber of the island and its calm bay.  Generations rushed through the eye of the needle, and I, one of the still legible crowd, entered the subway.  I wanted to find the line that connected me to my own part in these stories.

from Open City by Teju Cole


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