In the essay “Ground Zero” by Suzanne Berne, the author shares her profound emotions related to her visit to the Manhattan`s financial district, where the disaster took place on the 11th of September, 2001, and pays her respect to the victims. While sharing her strong, sentimental experience, Berne uses figurative language, tone, and imagery to convey her feelings, and through these tries to make the readers live that day the way that she lived. An attempt to visualize what she was seeing is noticeable when Berne compares the disastrous ruins to a construction site, depicting the machinery at work.
Berne uses her soulful depiction to make the reader feel the same sadness and admiration as she did. The author shows how the disaster affected the people from different countries that came to awe the remnants of that once was a place, full of life. The swaying American flags, and a large amount of visitors, who came despite the awful weather, express the feeling of respect and recognition. In order to show the feeling of near death, as a common people`s sensation, Berne uses figurative language: she describes a “skyscraper shrouded in black plastic” (8) as if it was clothed in a crape, takes into the picture a huge cross, made and mentions a “skeleton of the shattered Winter Garden” (8). Once more the author emphasizes on the funebrial black color that appears on the site – an honor guard of firefighters with their “black helmets and black coats” line up on the pit ramp. The little cemetery, that comes into sight very suddenly, is a symbol of loss, which bears signs of patriotism and adoration; the author tried to demonstrate the damage that the event had caused – left nothing behind, and took hundreds of lives. The overall impression from Berne`s depiction of the visit, seems to be a wordless movie, where people stand in disbelief and despair.
The feeling of emptiness is unbearable, and it is dominating in the Berne`s essay. An elderly man touches the elbow of his son (this gesture is very sensitive, and it implies unity and fulfillment of past and present human lives), and, staring at the site, recalls “an absence before there was an absence” (11). The struggle inside the man can be transferred to the consensual striving of all the visitors on that day. The realization of “nothing” (3), that becomes “absence” (3) is rather deep, and psychologically intense, especially to the out-of-towner, who comes to the reappraisal of “curiosity” (5) and “hopefulness” (5) in emptiness and hopelessness. The site seems to be a “dark theater into a bright afternoon” (6) after the the illusions had gone.
The difficulty to find a ticket for the viewing platform is expressed in the vagueness of the gestures of the police officers, and their bald resignation is the longing to avoid the facts and impressions, which might disrupt their peace of mind. The “incredulousness” (14) that pervaded even the arms of the law, instills uncertainty in future, and the “cheerfully painted kiosk” (15) with the juggler seems nothing, but a sarcasm in the face of the occurred disaster. The scene of the remains, carried up from the pit is imbued with a feeling of great pain: the honor guard, the instant pause in the deli, the mournful respect to the victims.
“Ground Zero” became a place of awe and devastation, but recognition and respect merged on the viewing platform, and the embodiment of cultures and feelings form a propulsive force, which likens to resuscitation. Berne emphasizes that death has no power over the energy of life, and she uses all her sentiments to prove this.