The Memorial

People talk a lot about the “healing process.” Well, this is New York. In the aftermath of a tragedy of monumental proportions, the healing process has been noisy and rude, with elbows out, redolent of greed, power, and the darker forces that drive human existence. And most of the shouting has been about how to make a fitting monument to what happened here. But in a hundred years, all the shouting and all the politics will be forgotten. What will be remembered is what is built here, now, on these sixteen acres.

  1. A gorgeous morning, but Katherine is uneasy. She asks Charlie to put the television on, just to distract her. From what? He doesn’t know. He’ll never know.

    “Would you mind turning the television on? My mind is not at ease.”

    The same words he remembers her saying then he now repeats—ten years after that Tuesday—with the faintest trace of Katherine’s Welsh accent.

    Charlie hails from Buffalo. He met Katherine here in Greenwich Village, on holiday with a corps of London-based musicians who swapped visits over the years with a light-opera group Charlie had joined.

    “I simply must get to know that woman,” Charlie remembers himself saying to a friend after he first spoke to Katherine in a church basement during a rehearsal. Charlie sounds like Cary Grant the way he hits “simply must,” but that’s more his attitude than an accent: Charlie is a bon vivant. Charlie Wolf didn’t settle in New York City by accident. No one does.

    So that Tuesday, Charlie clicks on the TV for Katherine. He’s at his desk, online, working. A tiny apartment in a good building on a nice block in the Village with a sushi joint to die for down the street. Thirteen years they’ve made their home here, all of Manhattan humming and thumping around them.

    Katherine’s leaving for the subway to work early—8:06. She left yesterday at 8:14. Charlie notices this sort of detail, mentions this to her. Katherine doesn’t want to hear it. Something else is bothering her.

    At dinner on Friday, Charlie had brought up th...

Originally published in Esquire, August 2011