Some good can come out of tragedy.
In the middle of tomorrow, a great ribbed ghost has emerged from a distant yesterday.
On Tuesday morning, workers excavating the site of the underground vehicle security center for the future World Trade Center hit a row of sturdy, upright wood timbers, regularly spaced, sticking out of a briny gray muck flecked with oyster shells.
Obviously, these were more than just remnants of the wooden cribbing used in the late 18th and early 19th centuries to extend the shoreline of Manhattan Island ever farther into the Hudson River. (Lower Manhattan real estate was a precious commodity even then.)
“They were so perfectly contoured that they were clearly part of a ship,” said A. Michael Pappalardo, an archaeologist with the firm AKRF, which is working for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to document historical material uncovered during construction.
By Wednesday, the outlines made it plain: a 30-foot length of a wood-hulled vessel had been discovered about 20 to 30 feet below street level on the World Trade Center site, the first such large-scale archaeological find along the Manhattan waterfront since 1982, when an 18th-century cargo ship came to light at 175 Water Street.
The area under excavation, between Liberty and Cedar Streets, had not been dug out for the original trade center. The vessel, presumably dating from the mid- to late 1700s, was evidently undisturbed more than 200 years.
9/11 happened, we can't go back in time and stop it, but we can look to the future. As an optimist, I can say that this historical discovery is a good thing. When tragedy happens, you can't dwell on the past, you have to make something positive happen. Like the BP spill, no doubt that's bad, but the outrage could end up getting us off fossil fuels. Or the fascist Citizens United Supreme Court decision could end up getting a Constitutional amendment passed to end all corporate contributions to elections.
We will never beat terrorism with bombs or Islamophobia or taking our shoes off, we will win with positivity, hope, and discovering 200 year-old boats.