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Six Months Later

11 March 02

Out the window on the 38th floor, Michael McMahon has a clear view of the 16-acre crater that everyone now calls Ground Zero, and he can hear the constant groan of the cranes and the trucks. Much has changed in the six months since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center created this eerie view. Rescue workers have recovered a total of 712 bodies (out of the 2,830 now believed to have been killed) and an astonishing 1.4 million tons of rubble have been removed, one truckload at a time.

But the biggest change may be clearer on the other side of McMahon's window. He looks out from the Marriott Financial Center Hotel, one of several businesses near Ground Zero that have reopened for business. And business at the hotel is not bad.

"Some people specifically request the rooms with a view," says McMahon, a hotel manager. "And some people specifically request that they do not have a view. We try to balance the needs of the guests who are here for different reasons."

Some guests are there to pay their respects; some are, like the guests before September 11th, simply there on business; and some have come to participate either in the clean-up, or in the rebuilding.

Six months after the worst terrorist attack in the history of the United States, New York is at a crossroads -- leaving a recovery that is nearly complete, entering a rebuilding that is soon being planned.

The rubble that has been cleared from the site itself represents more than 80 percent of all that has to be removed, a clean-up that is now expected to be completed ahead of schedule in May. Cars and buses drive up Church Street right along an instant landmark that is no longer hidden behind police barricades and an armed contingent of the National Guard. Seven of the 11 damaged subway stations have reopened, as have all of the schools. Many stores and offices are reopening as well, including not just the Marriott but also the Ritz-Carlton and the Century 21 department store; the World Financial Center, right on the edge of Ground Zero, is scheduled to reopen in a matter of weeks.

"The progress that has been made," Governor George Pataki said last week, "is probably more than anyone could have anticipated on the afternoon of September 11."

But the next phase -- the rebuilding -- promises to be a long and complicated process. There are still many unanswered questions.

Many of these questions will take months or years to resolve. John Whitehead, the head of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the newly created agency that will oversee the rebuilding efforts, estimates it will take 10 years or more.

"You have to remember that the World Trade Center was conceived in 1960, ground was broken in 1967, and it was not completed until 1976," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

This time, many New Yorkers are fighting to have a say in how it will be rebuilt.

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