Rhetoric of “Ground Zero” by Suzanne Berne


In her essay Ground Zero, Suzanne Berne explores the aftermaths of September 11 attacks. In particular, the author tries to render this feeling of loss and incredulity in the hearts of many American people. The work describes her pilgrimage to the site of the World Trade Center, and she focuses on the images which this place arouses in the consciousness. Her overarching thesis is that by remembering this event, Americans are gradually recovering from this tragedy, which is undoubtedly very deeply engraved into the history of the United States.

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The site of the World Trade Center gives to many different associations and each person may react in his or her own way. As far as the author is concerned, we can say that Suzanne Berne is overwhelmed by the feeling of loss and incredulity but she also cherishes hope that people will eventually get over this loss especially if they come to Ground Zero.

To some extent, my impressions were somewhat analogous to those ones of Suzanne Berne, and at first when I saw newspaper images of ground zero, it seemed to me that this had been just another construction site, and only with time passing, realization came. In addition to that, for a while, I felt as though these pictures had been some hoax or very practical joke. Moreover, I tried to convince myself that the Tower Twins had never been reduced to smolder and rubbles but this fact was so undeniable.

Suzanne Berne makes assumption about our reactions and feelings. At the very beginning she says that to the person, who has never been in New York or “out-of-towner”, this place may appear to be simply a construction site, but she emphasizes the fact the ground zero symbolizes almost ineffaceable scar (Berne, p 162). It is not just space or sheer “nothing”, because “it becomes much more potent which is absence” (Berne, p 162). Nevertheless, many people find it extremely difficult to shape their true sensations into words.

Apart from that, while depicting peoples behavior, Suzanne Berne suggests that many of them cannot believe that this calamity has ever occurred. Certainly, they do not deny this fact, but deep inside they still hope that this was just a nightmare. The journalist points out that there is an atmosphere of disbelief or incredulity among them as many onlookers say, “It is unbelievable” (Berne, 163). Some people have witnessed the construction of these buildings and none of them want to accept the truth that these two towers have ceased to exist.

Suzanne Berne ponders over the images, produced by ground zero. She focuses not only on her individual sensations but on the so-called public memory, and immediately, we begin to see the pictures of “collapsing buildings”, and “black plume of smoke” and people, who were desperately trying to save their lives (Berne, p 163). Yet, we should not forget that she is not altogether pessimistic.

She states that by visiting this place “out of curiosity, or horror, or reverence, or grief, something confusing that combines them all” (Berne, 165), people begin to fill this emptiness, or space, which eventually means that America is slowly but surely overcoming this tragedy, because the reminiscences not only bring pain but they also make us move forward. Perhaps, this is the major point, which the author wants to get across.


To conclude, Suzanne Bernes essay explores such concepts as public memory and the feelings which it arouses. People, visiting the ground zero, are overwhelmed by the sense of disbelief and bewilderment. They still cannot accept this fact. Nevertheless, the journalist suggests that this injury or wound is not incurable, and eventually people are bound to heal themselves.


Laurie G. Kirszner, Stephen R. Mandell. “Patterns for College Writing: A Rhetorical Reader And Guide”. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006.

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