Paying our respects

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ne dollar. One dollar. One dollar," the man said as he held up a postcard showing the New York skyline as it used to be, with the Twin Towers still standing. Next to him, a woman offered face masks for sale.

That was the extent of the hawkers we came across as we moved around the barricaded perimeter of the former WTC, which is little more than a big, ugly demolition site.

We wanted to visit, not out of morbid curiosity, but to pay our respects.

We lost a family member there, and our respects were intended for him as well as for all who perished in that place on Sept. 11.

We also had hoped to get a better sense of the devastation -- one that would replace the two-dimensional TV images -- and then be able to turn and walk away with some degree of closure that might begin to ease our burdened hearts and minds.

We left the Jersey side from Hoboken, taking a ferry to Pier 11 on the east side of lower Manhattan. Starting at the beginning of Wall Street, we walked toward Broadway. There were soldiers on every street corner and throngs of police officers.

We headed north on Broadway, and saw that the perimeter around the site was blocked starting at around Liberty Street. There were three viewing areas we found along Broadway: Liberty Street, Maiden Lane and John Street.

We were among hundreds, maybe a few thousand, of people milling around, and I could hear people gasp as they turned the corner onto Liberty Street and got their first real-life view of the site.

Flowers and candles had been left on a table at the edge of that barricade. People offering religious brochures walked through the crowds.

It was a windy day, and the air was full of tiny dust particles that stung our eyes. From the Liberty Street viewing area, I could barely keep my eyes open to look at the site.

There was a crush of people along all three viewing areas, many taking pictures and some filming with camcorders. It was strangely quiet among the crowd. The sound of a wrecking ball broke the solemn silence every few minutes.

We found a slightly different view at each of the three stops along Broadway, but each one was like peeking through a door left just slightly ajar. We did not find the closure we sought.

I think now that it simply does not exist.

Donna Tunney is executive editor of Travel Weekly, Travel Weekly Crossroads and Travel Management Daily.

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