November 24, 2003, 10:32 AM EST
For the first time since the terrorist attacks, workday commuters boarded PATH trains Monday from New Jersey to the World Trade Center station.
On Sunday, victims' families were the first group to undertake the emotional trip on a train that was the last to leave the trade center on Sept. 11, 2001.
On Monday, as the train pulled out of the Hudson River tunnel into the "pit" of ground zero, those on board stopped what they were doing -- reading or talking -- to look out the windows.
Sean Jensen, an information technology worker from Jersey City, N.J., who was among Monday's first commuters, said the ride was not nearly as packed as the average morning used to be before 9-11.
"It's kind of strange, just the thought of it; just the thought of going back," said Jensen, describing his feelings about getting back on the PATH train to the World Trade Center station.
Asked about victim families' unhappiness that the final stop was not renamed the World Trade Center Memorial station, Jensen said, "I think they should try to do something for the families. It's such a difficult thing. I'm not really sure why they didn't put that word in. I don't think it would have hurt."
On Sunday, Thelma Stuart, whose husband, Port Authority police officer Walwyn Stuart Jr., was instrumental in safely evacuating that train -- and who then returned to the trade center, where he died -- rode in the first car with her 3-year-old daughter, Amanda.
"It's a great honor," she said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said re-establishing transportation between New Jersey and lower Manhattan "is really going to make an enormous difference to many people's lives and be part of the real revival of downtown Manhattan."
"It's a resumption of normalcy," said New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, who joined Bloomberg and New Jersey Sens. Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg in the second car as it left Exchange Place in Jersey City, N.J.
"Today, we're proud and we're pleased to bring back to the people of this region something that was taken from us on Sept. 11," Anthony Coscia, chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said at a ceremony to rededicate the station.
Regular passenger service between New Jersey and the World Trade Center station started later Sunday.
"It was a bit emotional, a little sad, but it brings back a little normalcy and will bring people back to downtown New York," said Jaime De Jesus, who took the train into the new station.
The station was restored over 16 months for about $323 million, after crews gutted two train tunnels down to their iron frames and installed nearly 7,000 feet of new track. A permanent, $2 billion transit hub will take its place in 2006.
The station is expected to accommodate up to 50,000 passengers a day. Before the attacks, the station handled about 67,000 daily passengers, who switched to ferries, cars, other trains and buses after the station was destroyed.
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