NEW YORK From world leaders pulling up in stretch limousines to cheerleaders in town from Ohio, Ground Zero at the former World Trade Center is drawing thousands of people a day who feel a need to view the wreckage firsthand and somehow pay homage.
The very event that drove tourists away from New York City now appears to be drawing them back. While attendance at Broadway shows and museums is still down, hotel occupancy numbers are nearly where they were a year ago. Concierges, cab drivers and even somewhat reluctant city officials say the site of the attacks is exerting a powerful pull.
“It”s a hot spot,” said Keith Yazmir, spokesman for the New York Convention and Visitor”s Bureau. “It”s certainly not something we”re out there marketing as a visitor destination. At the same time, we understand there is something in people that makes them want to serve witness to what happened, and to the people who were lost.”
Only the site itself remains blocked off by a perimeter of chain link fencing and plywood walls still an almost incomprehensible scene of destruction stretching five blocks wide and four blocks long.
All nearby streets have reopened, and entire adjacent buildings are shrouded in red and black netting to keep debris from falling onto the growing number of pedestrians below. People arrive daily from around the world to peer through gaps in the walls or aim video cameras down side streets at bits of twisted wreckage.
Recognizing the growing crush of visitors, city officials are now discussing where to erect a possible viewing platform that would not interfere with construction and recovery workers.