Ground Zero

In her article entitled, , Suzanne Berne describesher personal pilgrimage, as well as, the respects paid by thousandsof other visitors to the site of what used to be the World TradeCenter in New York City. The people’s pilgrimages to this site werenearly devastated nearly the same way when the twin towers collapsedon September 11, 2001, and yet at that time, there was nothing to seeon the site. According to Berne, it was a moment when absence took amaterial form, that is, when what was not there became visible (Berne7). Many people from the US and around the world including Berne feltdrawn to visit “ground zero” in March 2002 to pay respects to theWorld Trade Center and most importantly, remember the people who diedduring the tragic incident.


The devastation experienced by the visitors is depicted by theirimaginations of what was there before and after the terrorist attack.When Berne says that “nothing is what ground zero looked like,”she depicts that the moment you start imagining and rethinking ofwhat you are looking at you realize that the absence of the twintowers becomes something tangible and “much more potent” (Berne3).The visitors were devastated, shocked and upset when the emptyspace started filling up again in their minds. There was a crowd onthe site comprising of Germans, Japanese and Italians among others.Everyone had come to pay their respects to they loved ones fromchildren, couples, middle-aged to older people. The crowd is filledwith curiosity and grief as they struggle to see across the streetsjust to see “what is nothing to see” (Berne 2)

According to Berne, ground zero would look like a construction sitewhere hope and inspirations flourishes as a new building is beingerected (Berne 5). However, the great bowl of light that illuminatesground zero reminds you the cracked masonry, broken steps in front ofBrooks Brothers and the steel skeleton of the broken Winter Gardenwhen the incident occurred. Then, there is a return to the pilgrimagesession with tulips coming up at St. Paul Chapel as the visitorsmourn the death of nearly three thousand people who perished duringthe 9/11 attack (Berne 9). In this way, the author depicts thedevastation that leaves the visitors with nothing to say and it isevident that it is a systematic process, which brings back thepainful memories of the incident.

Almost everyone on the scene was struggling with not what they seebut, what they remember about the incident, and this contributes togrief and devastation. The elderly man was upset by this absence ashe tells his son that he saw the place when the towers were not thereand when they were being built. As he walks away, he struggles withhis memories of the “absence before there was an absence” (Berne11). The visitors repeatedly said, “It’s unbelievable” sincethey were dissatisfied (Berne 12). The devastation in their minds isseen as they struggle to express their feelings about ground zero.The pilgrimage session upset the crowd nearly the same way if theywere observing the collapse of the buildings.


The author’s personal pilgrimages coupled with that of the othervisitors to the scene of what used to be the World Trade Center hasbeen used in the article, to show the devastationbrought out by the terrorist attack. Most importantly, the shock andgrief experienced by these visitors are nearly the same if they werewatching the buildings crumble down to the ground on September 11,2001. Berne has used evidence throughout the article to depict theywere devastated by the absence, which is referred to as the “groundzero.” She has presented the real experience, which occurs in asystematic manner leaving them with nothing to say. The visitorsfilled with curiosity while coming to ground zero were devastated asthey were struggling with their memories about the damages done bythe attack including the elderly man who was accompanied by his sonto the scene.

Works Cited

Berne, Suzanne. . New York:, 2002.Print