|November 24, 2003 - By CHRISTINE HAUSER|
"Here they come!" said the head of administration for PATH, Linda Vespoli, watching as a crowd of commuters pushed through the turnstiles into the Lower Manhattan station after disembarking from New Jersey trains. "Welcome back everyone."
She greeted the incoming commuters to the station, built in the foundation of the Trade Center, fielding questions about schedules and fares, and handing out free pens and business card holders that said "Remembering, Reconnecting, Rebuilding."
"It's going to be a busy, big station," said one police officer to another as they watched commuters flow through the turnstiles.
The station was officially inaugurated on Sunday with a ceremonial train
ride by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York; Gov. James E. McGreevey
of New Jersey, and Senators Jon Corzine and Frank R. Lautenberg of New
But as the workweek kicked off this morning, the gleaming new PATH trains got down to fulfilling the real business of the $323 million, 16-month restoration - serving as a vital rail link between Lower Manhattan and New Jersey across the Hudson River.
A Port Authority spokesman, Steve Coleman, said traffic flows would take some time to be restored to their pre-Sept. 11 volumes. "We had 67,000 people," he said, referring to daily volume before the attacks. "We are expecting by the end of next year 20,000 to 30,000."
He said it would take time for people to re-adjust their routes, that the economy was still down in the area. Also, most of the PATH commuters had worked in the World Trade Center towers. "There is 10 million square feet of office space not there," Mr. Coleman said.
"It seems like it's pretty heavily loaded," Mr. Coleman said as he watched streams of passengers moving through the station just before 7 a.m.. The trains of eight cars, which can carry up to 1,000 people, were pulling in to the station every five minutes.
Mr. Coleman said the Port Authority would have a full account late on Monday of the number of passengers who rode on the first day.
" Many of the commuters who went through the station today said they had been in the city on the day of the attacks.
"Time has passed quickly," said Gary Johnson, 43, a financial services businessman, after he left the train. A commuter from Colts Neck, N.J., Mr. Johnson said he used the PATH daily before the attacks.
"I came through twice that day, once at 6 and then I went uptown for a meeting at 7:45," he said. "I am glad they have been able to rebuild."
Kathleen Quigley's eyes filled with tears as she recalled how she had arrived by train the morning of the attacks about a half hour before they happened. She said she was later evacuated from her building near the Trade Center.
"Everything is almost the way it used to be," she said, looking around the station. "But it's not. There is a sacredness to it. There is still something."
Downtown businesses saw the reopening as a hopeful sign. Greenwich Jewelers on Trinity Street handed out flyers that read "Welcome Back PATH Train Commuters" and offered a free watch battery.
Across the street from the station, a long line of people waited patiently for free coffee, doughnuts and muffins handed out by the Millenium Hilton Hotel's Church & Dey restaurant to mark the opening of the station. "Welcome Back PATH" a large banner read. PATH refers to the Port Authority Trans-Hudson commuter rail system.
There are still signs that the events of Sept. 11 are fresh. At the nearby post office at Church Street, a dust-covered plastic wreath adorns the door, in remembrance of the 11 members of the postal police who helped evacuate the building after the attacks.
The temporary terminal was designed by Robert I. Davidson, chief architect of the Port Authority, as a stark display of gray steel columns and concrete floors. Blue Signs reading "World Trade Center" are attached to the columns.
The station crosses the trade center site in four levels, from the train platforms about 70 feet below the sidewalk to the winged entrance canopy on Church Street. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which built the terminal, has a preliminary design by the architect Santiago Calatrava for the permanent PATH station.
Parts of the burned structure that formed the parking garage are visible from the turnstiles. The floor, doors and signs linking the PATH station to the E subway train are left over from the original World Trade centre structure.
Just after 9 on the morning of Sept. 11, a PATH train pulled into the World Trade Center, rescued the last people on the platform, and left the station. It was the last train to do so before the south tower collapsed.
Patricia Reilly rode into New York today on the PATH train wearing a yellow ribbon in memory of her sister, Lorraine, who was in the south tower when it was hit by the second airplane.
"I never got my sister's remains back at all," said Ms. Reilly, who is with the Coalition of 9/11 Families, which wants the station to be called World Trade Center Memorial Station. "I feel she's somewhere around here," she said, standing in the terminal. "This is where the largest concentration of remains was found."
Before the attacks, the World Trade Center Station was the busiest in the PATH train system, and it was one of the main access links to downtown Manhattan and to Wall Street, the economic and financial nerve center of the city.
About 210,000 passengers a day were riding the PATH at the time of the attacks, and those displaced from the Trade Center station either found alternate ways to work, or squeezed into the remaining stations.
Extra trains were added at midtown stations to try to ease overcrowding. Extra buses and ferries addressed some of the commuting needs to the downtown area, but overall their capacity was viewed as insufficient.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company