Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

9/11: A Year After / WHO WE ARE NOW

Ray Carr

September 11, 2002

Ray Carr, 57, is a licensed street vendor who works across the street from ground zero. To his left and right are merchants selling tables full of T-shirts, hats, glass and plastic replicas of the World Trade Center towers; photo albums of the towers on fire and crumbling, magazines titled "Terror" depicting the attacks; piles of key rings bearing the image of the World Trade Center and similar merchandise. In the middle of the bustling scene on Liberty Street he stands sweating under a blazing sun, occasionally taking refuge in the shade offered by a fence surrounding a vacant lot.

*

"I've been working down here for 10 years as a vendor, so I knew this place long before people called it ground zero.

People were very friendly, I had customers all the time, and it was hard for me to come back here after 9/11 because I knew so many of the people who worked in those buildings. I haven't seen some of them in a long time. I wonder if they made it.

This place can be so depressing, just thinking what happened, but you've got to make a living, right? You have to keep working, even though vendors like me get a bad rap from lots of people. You know, the ones who say: 'Oh, you're selling T-shirts and other things. You're making money off a tragedy.'

But the way I see it, we wouldn't be here if people didn't want these things. Thousands of people come by all the time, and if they want to buy the FDNY and NYPD T-shirts I'm selling, if they want T-shirts of the World Trade Center, they'll pay money for them. If they didn't, I wouldn't be selling them. I'm meeting a need, that is how I see it.

This is free enterprise, and it's not easy work. I'm a licensed vendor for the city, but it doesn't guarantee me space down here. I have to drive down here at 5 a.m. every day just to make sure I get a good spot near ground zero. And the cops have been squeezing us lately.

We don't have the workspace that we used to. I used to have a much better spot, right on the corner over there, where there were lots more customers. But it got taken away. So I'm happy with what I've got. Each morning, I bring down tables and set up the T-shirts and the hats, and then wait for customers to start showing up. Most nights I don't leave until 8 p.m.

Most days, it's pretty sad being down here. I look across the street at ground zero, and it's like a big hurt that never stops hurting. You can't ever forget what happened, and the way I see it, I'm just helping people remember.

The people who died down here were working, and so am I. It's business, man. It's as American as you can get."

*

As told to Josh Getlin

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|