Neatly-pressed white uniforms dotted the ferry coming from Staten Island, where the missile cruiser USS Hue City is docked, and made a beeline for the 16-acres area between Vesey and Liberty Streets. As sailors poured into Manhattan for the Fleet Week yesterday, a popular destination was the former site of the World Trade Center.
"It's hard to imagine the chaos that was here," a petty officer, Joshua Cox, said, standing just south of ground zero. A cryptologic technician, Amanda Whitney, said she had not realized how large the site was. But it was not just the size of the World Trade Center at which some sailors marveled. A Navy fireman, Joshua Kerbel, who hails from Gibsonburg, Ohio, said there were probably more people on the block he was standing on than in his entire hometown.
There was little agreement among the sailors as to what Ground Zero should look like in the future. A petty officer second class, Aaron Riel, said nothing should be built: "Let the space be the memorial."
But a third class petty officer, Shawn Conway, who is from Gainesville, Fla., said that bigger skyscrapers than the originals should be built. Mr. Conway, who was in 12th grade math class on the morning of September 11, 2001, said the attack brought America together and "made us stronger as a nation."
Arriving at Pier 90 in Midtown on the USS Wasp, Daniel Pegg, 20, who has served two years in the Navy, said he would visit Ground Zero because "that's what helped me go into the Navy." He had been in history class when he heard of the September 11 attacks. Mr. Pegg had been considering the Navy, but after the news came, he made up his mind to join.
Tomorrow morning, a group of Marines, led by a sergeant who is a double amputee, will conduct a run that will end at the site. But many sailors will be strolling, not running, around the city this week. What does Mr. Cox expect to be doing? "Walking around lost," he said.