I saw a lot of remarkable things on the streets in the weeks following the attacks. Just outside Union Square Park, I first encountered a man carrying an enormous cross that was covered with writing and raggedy cloths. I saw him many times, at many different places around the city, and I never saw him talk with anyone. He did not appear to be doing this to impress anyone. It was simply his burden.
You could not walk anywhere in the city without seeing the faces of people missing in Lower Manhattan; within hours of the attacks, posters bearing their photos and descriptions were being distributed and attached to anything that stood still. I would venture a guess that nearly everyone who vanished was represented by one of these posters.
There were so many different faces on the flyers that one could think the effort was almost self-defeating: they looked like a large and randomly selected sampling of all the people of the world, no different from the people you’d see on a subway car or walking around Times Square after the theaters let out. But as the days went by, you got to know the faces. You began to imagine their lives. You knew personal things about them from the text on the posters: what their coworkers called them, what kind of clothing they wore. One woman in particular, a beautiful young woman who’d worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, seemed to follow me wherever I went.
Increasingly, I understood that I was looking at ghosts. These people were not going to be found alive, and perhaps would never be found at all. Their secondary effect became primary. “Know me,” the posters said. “This is who I was. Remember me.”