- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2001

NEW YORK The World Trade Center, once a destination for tourists seeking a glimpse of its 110-story twin towers, is now Manhattan's main attraction for out-of-towners and residents trying to get a close look at its ruins.

The south tower's rubble can be seen from a corner at Liberty and Nassau streets. Parents hoist children on their shoulders to get a better view, while the whir and snap of cameras compete with the bellows of New York City police officers.

"Please keep moving, don't stop on the sidewalk," the officers repeat, to no avail. These are determined spectators, spurred on by being three blocks from the epicenter of the terrorist attack Sept. 11 that toppled the twin lower Manhattan landmarks.

Chris Valentine of Chula Vista, Calif., cried when she saw the smoky wreckage.

"Oh, I just had no idea, no idea," she said, her eyes moist. She and her husband, George, were in the city for their 50th wedding anniversary, a visit they have made every ten years.

"We came here because we want to be a part of New York," Mr. Valentine said.

Regina and Wilhelm Ruttlen of Germany wandered the dusty downtown streets with two Instamatic cameras. They came to New York two days before the World Trade Center's towers were struck by separate hijacked jetliners.

"It is very bad, we are very upset. But we [would] come to see it, even if [the towers] were standing. We've spent a lot of time here, and we had to come down to see this. It is just part of New York now," said Mr. Ruttlen. It was the couple's fifth visit to New York.

The tourist experience is hardly the same, though. Pedestrians dodged flatbeds carrying Sheetrock and dump trucks hauling building remains from the site.

They also must deal with vendors selling commemorative T-shirts with odes to the trade center. Some sell on downtown sidewalks for $4, with rag-tag images of the towers. A few blocks to the north, in Chinatown, the same shirts can be had for $2.

John Cunningham, though, was pushing his product for $10, professionally screened shirts with a photo of the city's skyline and "New York City, 1973-2001" at the bottom.

He sold eight on Monday. "And they were mostly to people who work down here," said Mr. Cunningham.

The site has become a sorrowful destination, now the most-photographed place in New York.

"We have to see these things, even though we've never been in the downtown here," said Peter Kalman, who came to New York from Hungary two weeks ago with his wife. He toted a video camera and she held a point-and-shoot camera.

They have been trapped in the city because getting an international flight is still difficult.

"Now we go see more sites and this is certainly one of them," he said.

That's all right with the natives, who are also grabbing subway trains downtown for the spectacle.

"This is everybody's town, and there very well could have been some tourists killed as well," said Louis Glenn, a Brooklyn schoolteacher who joined the tourists yesterday.

"Seeing it on TV doesn't accomplish what you need," he added. "We really need to see it. It is important."

He glanced to his right as he exited the Brooklyn Bridge subway stop near City Hall.

"We need to take a picture of those National Guard troops," he said to his female companion. "You sure don't ever see that anywhere."

But there are now many things that people never saw before, in addition to a series of skyscrapers leveled by suicidal terrorists.

Wanted posters in the windows of police cruisers, for example.

In the rear passenger window of one NYPD patrol car was a picture of authorities' prime suspect, Osama bin Laden, in a traditional Wild West poster.

"Wanted, Dead Or Alive," read the black-and-white poster, which took up most of the window.

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