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On train to ground zero, it's a somber trip back

 Wednesday, November 25, 2003 Washington Times

NEW YORK (AP) -- As PATH trains rumbled out of their Hudson River tunnels and into the jagged-walled pit of ground zero, passengers set aside their crossword puzzles and their e-mail pagers and stared somberly at the sight outside their window. Weekday PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) service between New Jersey and the World Trade Center site resumed yesterday for the first time since the Twin Towers were obliterated on September 11, 2001. The World Trade Center PATH station was crushed in the rubble. "It's difficult to imagine the way it was before, and the way it is now," said lawyer Howard Adams, who twisted around in his seat to look, then paused to clear his throat as the train arrived at the new station.

The $323 million station opened Sunday but saw its first flood of passengers for yesterday morning's rush of commuters bustling between Lower Manhattan and New Jersey. Before the attacks, the World Trade Center PATH station had been an important hub for 67,000 daily commuters. As the train swept around ground zero toward its destination yesterday, passengers were surrounded by familiar scenes of the rebuilding: trailers for workers, orange pickup trucks, a ramp zig-zagging from the floor up to street level.

Many passengers stared quietly as the train arrived. "It's kind of strange," said Sean Jensen, an information-technology worker who listened to music on headphones as he rode the train from Jersey City. "Just the thought of it. Just the thought of going back." During the past two years, Mr. Jensen said, he fumbled around for ways to get to work -- ferry service, or the subway from a PATH stop farther north in Manhattan.

The new hub is called simply World Trade Center PATH Station. Family members of September 11 victims staged a protest Sunday, arguing that the word "Memorial" should have been part of the name. The station is mostly steel and pale concrete -- spare and industrial but somehow elegant, like the trade center itself. The station, which hugs the northeast corner of ground zero, is mostly in open air and with a roof arching in a wing shape over the entry escalators. It is only temporary, to give way to a $2 billion transit hub set to open in 2006.

Workers installed nearly 7,000 feet of new track to bring PATH service back to the trade center site. The old tunnels partially flooded after the attack and had to be gutted down to their steel frames. The station is expected to accommodate up to 50,000 passengers a day. Yesterday's rush hour saw steady streams of commuters, but few cars were packed to standing room only. The riders who did plunk down $1.50 for the trip from New Jersey were confronted by a halting change of scenery out the window as the darkness below the river gave way to ground zero.

The trains shoot into the heart of the pit, so close to the site's foundation that riders can read the scribbling on construction crates.

Passengers see the arresting view only briefly, before trains pull into the station and the scene is obscured by large, translucent panels, each bearing a quotation about New York -- many specifically about its vitality and strength. One of them is a description of Manhattan by the poet Edgar Allan Poe. It reads: "The city is thronged with strangers and everything wears an aspect of intense life."


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http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20031124-103150-5173r.html

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