Last weekend, my wife and I walked around downtown quite a bit. Saturday afternoon we decided to have dinner at Veselka’s on 2nd Avenue and since we were right there next to it, we walked across the street to have a look at the site of the gas explosion from last March. It was all over the news for a few weeks, but not so much now. The day the explosion happened, I saw it on the news before leaving to go to a graduate history class at City College. I had a classmate that lived in the area so I sent him a message to ask him how he was doing. He told me he was ok and that his building was not affected, but that it was crazy downtown.
Oddly enough, my wife and I had already made plans to meet my dad in that neighborhood that evening. He was visiting from out of town. We’d thought about going to Veselka’s but he was in the mood for Thai food, so we decided to go to Thai Terminal. I think it’s over on 1st and 11th or 12th, one block up from Veneiro’s. Anyway, the moment I got off the train at Union Square I could smell smoke in the air. It made me wonder how the city must have smelled in the days and weeks after the Trade Towers collapsed. My wife, dad and I all walked down 2nd Ave to try to get a look at what was going on but we couldn’t get any closer than 12th street, I think it was. There was a barricade and emergency services personnel everywhere.
So, Saturday, my wife and I went to satisfy our curiosity. It was a thoroughly depressing experience. There were signs attached to the fence and also to a blue plywood barricade set up inside the fence on the now empty lot. When I walked to one side, I could look around the blue barricade and see two graves outlined in stones. One had a cross made of rusted metal pipe stuck in the ground behind it, surrounded by deflated balloons. There were pictures of the two guys that died in the explosion on the fence surrounded by wilted flowers, links, political messages, and accusations of greed and stupidity needlessly resulting in death.
Maybe their deaths weren’t completely meaningless though. A week or so ago I saw a news report about a Dallas BBQ restaurant in the same neighborhood being closed temporarily after someone reported smelling gas. ConEd performed an inspection and found gas leaks and shut the restaurant down while repairs are made. Would that have happened without the tragedy at 2nd Ave. being so fresh in everyone’s minds? Maybe, maybe not.
Some photos from the site: