- The Washington Times - Monday, August 30, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — Ronalee Linsenmann, an alternate delegate from Idaho to the Republican National Convention, took one look at the eerie expanse of the World Trade Center site and forgot about politics.

“What a waste of human life,” she said, shaking her head as she walked the streets around the site that for many always will be known as ground zero. “There’s just nothing political about it.”

For delegates visiting the site, many of them for the first time since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the stark view provoked quiet reverence and political fervor — often at the same time.

“It’s very subduing,” said Janice Bowling, a Tennessee delegate who is running for Congress. “It’s more an experience of the heart than an experience of the eyes.”

At the same time, she said seeing ground zero, where more than 2,700 people died, only intensified her resolve to make sure President Bush is re-elected. To Miss Bowling, the site evokes the beginning of the war on terrorism.

“Thank God we had a president with a resolve and a moral integrity to fight this war on our terms,” she said.

The 16 acres of ground zero, now a sprawling, dusty, urban construction site, are vastly different from even a year ago — and a different place entirely from the smoking piles of rubble that they were after two hijacked planes slammed into the twin, 110-story towers.

The eastern half of the pit now resembles a small aluminum city, dominated by the shiny outer shell of the PATH commuter train station that reopened in November 2003, to shuttle 50,000 people daily between Manhattan and New Jersey.

The inside of the PATH station, in the pit itself, provides perhaps the most arresting view. Crisscrossing ramps lead up to ground level, and the exposed slurry wall is visible.

The station, whose steel and concrete insides give it an oddly futuristic feel, will give way to a permanent $2 billion transit hub in 2006.

The rebuilding outside is noticeable as well. The 7 World Trade Center tower is rising, at a cost of $700 million, and some of its scaffolding already is covered by a glass exterior. The trade center complex’s Building 7 was the last to collapse.

And on July 4, dignitaries laid the cornerstone for the Freedom Tower, the 1,776-foot, twisting tower of glass and steel that will become the centerpiece of the rebuilding. It is to be completed in 2009.

Although the convention falls just a week before the third anniversary of the attacks, planners kept political events away from ground zero. Still, the site remains something of a flash point.

At 119 Cedar St., an apartment building overlooking the southern edge of ground zero, placards in the windows of the top floor spell out “NO WAR.” Another sign reads, “Dissent is patriotic.”

It is a sight that puzzled Kris Cox, the wife of a delegate from Missouri, who was seeing ground zero for the first time.

“Why do people say, ‘No war’?” she said. “I don’t understand this. Do they want America to sit by watching our buildings get blown up? I appreciate President Bush for defending America.”

Her husband, delegate Stanley Cox, tempered his remarks.

“I came here because I wanted to pay my respects,” he said, wearing a “Bush” button 3 inches wide on his shirt.

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