Sept. 11 unforgettable if you visit Ground Zero in New York

It's something you have to do when you go to New York City. It's something you have to see despite its maudlin nature. It's a stop you have to make.

So you jump on the subway to Lower Manhattan, arrive at the financial district and start looking. It's not hard to find. Empty space in a city this large stands out.

If you didn't know any better, you could mistake it for a construction site, no more, no less. But you do know better, so you don't. Like the others milling around quietly, serenaded by the city's cacophony, you peer through the fence where the covering is pulled back far enough to offer a glimpse.

The view itself is not tragic - just helmeted construction workers doing their jobs - but the reason for the work is. You can only imagine, and even then you really can't.

It's your first trip to the city, so there is no context to measure what once was. The buildings nearby are monstrous, making it hard to appreciate the towering nature of what used to be here and how it blocked the view of neighboring skyscrapers.

And if you can't appreciate the sheer size of what was there, how can you possibly imagine its destruction? Or the chaos it inspired, sending people running down the narrow streets nearby.

On this day, people are walking quickly, but it's New York quick. There's no panic, just cocksureness. These people know where they're going, they will not be impeded. They have meetings to attend, offices to visit and lunches to eat.

But you don't have to look far to see things have changed. Because those people, with their business suits and brief cases, walk past the heavily guarded entrance to the New York Stock Exchange, right past policemen stationed on the street corners in full riot gear holding menacing weapons.

You see plans for the new structure that will occupy this site, and plans for a memorial for all those lost here. And you wonder how it happened, how it hasn't happened again and if it will.

It was six years ago that the World Trade Center twin towers came down. That morning when you, and everyone you know, watched in astonishment, watched in horror. It was something you said you'd never forget, same thing everyone said, but sometimes you do.

But not on this day. Not today. And not after you've seen it with your own eyes.

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Tuesdays.