The PATH train has returned to lower Manhattan, two years after the station was buried under the devastation of the World Trade Center attack. The New York Times has a couple of nice stories on the return of trains and passengers to the site.
I used to take the PATH train into the World Trade Center every morning. When I first started to commute downtown I was a little jumpy remembering the bombing in the WTC garage, which predated my New York employment, but I soon got over this anxiety and came to enjoy my short walk to work, the local shops and restaurants, and even the little shopping mall in the concourse above the train station, always full of bustling commuters. Ascending the enormous escalators into that mall around this time of year I'd get my first reminder of the holiday season, as Christmas music began to play over the loudspeakers, and decorations went up in the shop windows.
In good weather I sometimes took the ferry, enjoying the breeze and the open air before I entered the forest of buildings where I worked. I would walk through or around the twin towers to find a farmers' market there several days a week. A Krispy Kreme doughnut store offered an opposing temptation from beneath the canopy of a Trade Center entrance.
I especially remember coming up from the trains and finding virtuoso violinist James Graseck busking at the base of the escalators. I would always stop and listen for a few minutes as Graseck played. His love of music and his clear joy in playing it made an inspiring start to the day. I don't know what has become of Graseck, but I hope he was not there that September.
As it turned out I left my lower Manhattan job and worked in midtown for the next couple of years. But in the fall of 2001 I began work on a project which was to lead me downtown once more. Initially I only travelled there for meetings a few times a week, and it was during this phase of my project that the attack occurred. I was not downtown that day, although I had been there just the day before. I would have begun daily commutes through the World Trade Center just one month after the attacks.
My project downtown was not a fun one. Everything went wrong with it, both internally and externally. On the outside I had to commute into a neighborhood that had been forever changed. My onetime pleasure in the ferry ride was greatly tempered by the huge crowds forced to the ferries by the destruction of their train station. I remember one afternoon walking back along the line of people waiting to board the ferry home. I was walking quickly, but people were approaching from all directions and the line grew away in front of me faster than I could walk. In the end I began going to work earlier every morning and leaving earlier every afternoon so as to avoid the worst of the crowd. This changed schedule, which I've kept, is an odd personal aftereffect of the destruction of the towers. Fortunately, and mercifully, we moved the project back to midtown last year.
The internal problems with my project have had other lasting effects. Morale was driven so low, work pressures thrown so high, that I found myself rapidly burning out. I had been married the month before, and if not for my dear wife I doubt I'd have survived professionally. Those who've kept a close eye on this site may have noticed in my countdowns section the "days until this project ends" countdown, long locked at "?". The project was supposed to take less than six months. It went on for more than two years.
Recently, I began to imagine an end to the project. As a believable completion date crept closer I updated my countdown, which terminated, along with the project, on Saturday, following a successful launch of an application it took a dozen people two years to code. This project, among other things, has been keeping me busy of late, and I've been posting far less at this website. I am hoping now to write more, now that this major professional deadline has passed. Although three of us are responsible for supporting and maintaining a codebase totaling a third of a million lines, this work is expected to be sporadic enough that we'll be given some other things to do, after we've had a chance to decompress.
So as the return of the trains ease the trip downtown for thousands, the end of this marathon project eases my return to writing at this site. I hope to be able to keep things interesting, and I thank you for checking back.