Paul Greenberg

Why was this September 11th different from all other September 11ths?

Because on this September 11th, there were are signs of reconstruction, even rededication, at Ground Zero. Tangible, concrete, noisy, dusty, comforting, encouraging signs. The whole place, above and below ground, was coming alive again. At last.

This year, what had been only a yawning crater for so long was filled with cranes, towers, tracks, tunnels ... and trees. You could see green again. Life. The first white oak trees, each about 30 feet tall, arrived last month. Carefully cultivated at a nursery just across the East River in Monmouth County, New Jersey, the 16 oaks were lifted by cranes, then planted in a rich, deep bed of soil. There'll be more than enough earth between them and the labyrinth of underground caverns beneath them for the trees to sink their roots deep. Like liberty in America.

This 8-acre memorial garden will provide shade and solace in the middle of a great urban reconstruction. Four hundred of the trees -- 416 to be exact -- are to take root here, like hope and memory. Around, under, soaring above them, a whole new complex of structures arises. The trees are a happy portent in this our summer of discontent -- a verdant oasis in the midst of the alternating listlessness and anger that pervades the country as election fever mounts. This old republic, too, keeps sinking new roots.

Ground Zero is no longer an empty pit -- a wasteland far below that sightseers stare at with something too close to pity. After all these years of squabbling indecision, the architects' schematic drawings are taking shape in steel and concrete. Two 176-foot squares clad in gray granite, each 30 feet deep, now outline the footprints of the old Twin Towers that will become clear pools. Bronze panels around them are to bear the names of each of the 2,982 dead lost here. But not forgotten. Never forgotten.

Deep underground, the great city's third largest rail station is taking shape even as 100,000 commuters pour into the city every day via a temporary station. They could discern the rounded outlines of the new structures if they bothered to look. The mezzanine of the new station, designed by the great bridge builder Santiago Calatrava, begins to take a natural, elliptical shape. At the scene of this monstrous crime, with all its murders most foul, new life now emerges. As if to cleanse the site with labor, commerce, and all the mundane blessings of life in America.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.