Bruce Brodoff Communications
Bruce Brodoff Communications
November, 2001: The Smell; I'll Never Forget It
By Bruce Brodoff

It's been seven weeks since the Twin Towers were destroyed, and there are signs that the City is beginning to recover. The "frozen zone" around the site continues to shrink, opening more streets to pedestrians and vehicles. Shuttered subway stations and businesses are beginning to reopen, the hotel and restaurant industry is picking up, the financial markets are operating, the Yankees are once again in the middle of a fall classic, and the Indian summer is bringing out the strollers and outdoor enthusiasts. It is now sometimes possible to forget what happened on that awful day.

And then the smell hits you.

It is an odor so strong, so repulsive, and so frightening even after seven weeks -- that it defies description.

I've heard the smell described as "burning Coke cans", "burning tires" and "burning wire," but these descriptions just don't do justice to the stench and what it represents.

To me, the odor rising from the destruction smells like the physical manifestation of EVIL. I feel like I'm inhaling the very essence of the Devil itself with each breath.

The stench is almost visible, and I don't mean because you can still see smoke rising from the crater.

It is "visible" down in the subway, as your morning train approaches downtown. Sitting on the train, another groggy commute, lost in your thoughts or nodding off. Then it hits, like a punch in the face, reminding you that these are no longer routine mornings. There is a near unanimous reaction among fellow straphangers: The recoiling noses, the reaching for tissues or handkerchiefs, the solemn internal thoughts.

It is "visible" during office meetings, or during lunch or dinner, or when taking a walk or working out, when the wind shifts and once again sends smoke your way. No matter what you are doing, the smell stops you in your tracks and puts one overpowering thought back into your head: "Oh my god, the Twin Towers were destroyed."

I find that it is most "visible" when it is pitch black outside, when I am awakened in the middle of the night by a good whiff of the smoke that has been carried by the breeze blowing off the harbor. As I lay half-asleep, my eyes closed, the acrid smell irritating my throat and lungs, I feel as though I can "see" the evil forces that perpetrated this attack.

The odor is a constant, monstrous presence, tangible evidence of the dark side, a real-life bogeyman that is not just under the bed but all around you, 24/7.

I'm hoping that the odor will finally disappear once the fires under the rubble are extinguished and the site is cleared.

But I fear that even after the last traces of the former World Trade Center are removed, even after the new buildings and parks and memorials are built, after this horrible day is as firmly implanted in the history books and as long ago as Pearl Harbor is, that this odor will still linger.

Maybe not as a permanent presence, but one that rears its ugly head at the most unsuspecting moments, disrupting business meetings, picnics and concerts, shopping sprees and commutes home, forever reminding all of what happened that day and what was lost.

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