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Everyone seems so busy; some are running down the stairs to
catch the packed train that will leave them. Others stare at the message board
like zombies waiting to find out when it’s their turn to leave the massive stark
room. Click, click, click the board begins to change and the people get closer
as if they are waiting to hear their name being called. The slight rumble below
their feet lets them know that a train has just arrived in the station. They
are all hoping that it’s their train only to be disappointed with the word
“delayed,” where arrival time should be. A slight sigh is heard throughout the
room. Everyone returns to their cell phones, iPods, or the person next to them
for entertainment until they depart.
The old Penn Station, Pete Hamill recalls, was a place of magic with “great spaces for the
waiting room, with high, graceful wrought-iron arches and many windows, the
whole suffused by day with the light of the city and at night –if you only
looked up-with rectangles of a dark luminous glamour.” That version of Penn
Station was destroyed. Today, we live with its successor.
The waiting rooms are now small with seats covered in filth.
The wrought iron arches are gone and replaced with plaster. The many windows
have been filled with cement. No longer can people gaze into the night sky. Now
their eyes meet a florescent flickering light. The once great beautiful history
has now been replaced. Click, click, click. The board changes again and
everyone drops their conversations; iPods are paused; phone calls are placed on
hold and the track information is placed on the board. “On Time Track 6.”
Like a pack of caged animals released in the wild everyone
runs to track six. No longer is this place magical. It’s a layover hub on the
way to a greater destination. What happened to the Penn Station we once knew?
Bernadette Henderson is a Rutgers-Newark student. Posted September 2009.