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PATH rides again!


The last PATH train to pull out of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, rumbled back into the rebuilt station yesterday, signaling an emotional, major step in the recovery of lower Manhattan.

Mayor Bloomberg, New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey and victims' family members made the short but symbolic trek from Jersey City's Exchange Place, pulling into the $323 million temporary station about 11 a.m. While the resumption of PATH service in lower Manhattan was good news for thousands of commuters, yesterday's first ride also served as a somber reminder of all that was lost just over two years ago. "This is all so bittersweet," said McGreevey, whose New York counterpart, Gov. Pataki, could not attend because of the flu.

When the station opened to the public hours later, several riders also spoke of conflicting emotions. "I'm scared I'm going to cry," said 48-year-old Diane Rideout of Jersey City, who escaped on the last PATH train Sept. 11. "The last time I was here I just remember running over pocketbooks and shoes in all of the madness."

The station will serve commuters until 2006, when a $2 billion transit hub is expected to replace it. The station's sparseness reflects its temporary status: There are no bathrooms or heat or air conditioning. Decorations are minimal, save for a memorial plaque and quotes about New York uttered by Edgar Allan Poe, Ed Koch and Gene Kelly, among others.

Still, Port Authority officials expect the no-frills station to handle 50,000 commuters and 280 trains daily. "I don't think there is anything that we can do - in my mind - to really remember those 2,800 people we lost here other than to ... build a real world for the people that they left behind," Bloomberg said, "and make their senseless deaths meaningful in a real way." But several victims' family members who gathered across the street from the station, at the World Financial Center, said rebuilding the tracks across part of the footprints of the towers was a betrayal. "They're [the footprints] a historical document that must be preserved and not compromised by commercial interests like the quickest way to rebuild a PATH train station," said Anthony Gardner, executive board member of the Coalition of 9/11 families. They also want the word "memorial" used in the station's name. It is known as the World Trade Center station.

But Evelyn Grazcirena, 49, a statistical analyst from Battery Park City, said she was proud that the station was open and the trains were running. "I almost started crying at the top of the steps when I saw all the people and the movement," said Grazcirena, who recalled taking friends to the World Trade Center's observation deck for its breathtaking views of the city. Looking around the train, she said, "Look, nothing's changed. The cars are the same - and even the coffee cups are still under the seats."

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