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New York City Memorials
An Essay by NPR's Scott Simon

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Scott Simon
Scott Simon

Sept. 17, 2001 -- Today's been one of those magically movie-bright autumn days in New York. After almost a week of grief and shock and stillness, the city's streets and squares begin to bristle with some life today. Now Union Square, just a few blocks above the blast area in Lower Manhattan, has seemed to become a kind of unofficial people's message wall and mourning spot. The park is speckled with thousands of candy-colored Mexican candles that burn through the day and night. And each tree, each inch of fence is papered over with what amounts to wanted posters for people searching for loved ones who were caught up in the blast last Tuesday. Families and friends who are trying to melt down into just a few short words those traits in their loved ones that might help a stranger recognize them, too.

Charles Murrow of Brooklyn, 38. His family's put a picture of him up, holding his infant daughter in his arms. And they say he has a tattoo of a smiley face on his right forearm.

Doris Eng, 30. She was a restaurant manager on the 107th floor. She wears an NYU graduation ring on her right hand and a jade pig on a cord around her neck.

Mosuto Ouso(ph) lives in Japan. His family sent a picture of him which shows him holding a smiling little girl in pink silk on his lap. The two of them are grinning and laughing -- father and daughter, I guess. Looks like they're on what amounts to a tour boat. The poster says he has braces, wears glasses and they say his family misses him.

Someone has stretched a couple of long rolls of artist canvas along one of the park fences here. People are scrawling their thoughts and their prayers. 'As we weep we endure,' someone says. Sometimes you can pick up impromptu debates. There's a quote from Gandhi in one section. Below that someone else has written, 'Get the bastards.' Another, 'War is bad; peace is good.' That's answered by another, 'The time for peace is past.' Several just say, 'I love New York.'

New York shines on. There's a picture of Noel Martz(ph), 29. He was wearing his wedding band last Tuesday. His family says he has a dolphin tattooed on his left foot, a turkey tattooed on his right hip.

Joseph Ecobatchi, 26. Amy Lamsamoff, she looks like a teen-ager. Jason Defazio, 42. Francisco Cruz, 48. Mary Lou Hage, 26. Heuda Jane, 21. The names of New York, the names from every corner of the world.

Another sign at the center of Union Square says, `Hope is alive.' But as the days since the attack toll by, and so few of the faces on these posters are found, their smiles that are all around us here, the only real smiles in the park today, instead become memorials.

Scott Simon is host of NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday.