Reflections On 9/11 From NYC – 20 Years Later
Tomorrow, Sept. 11, 2021, marks, to borrow a phrase from FDR, a day which will live in infamy in our memory. Even voicing the words “September 11” aloud entails an immediate, somber feeling.
20 years. Different media networks have been producing documentaries to commemorate the day. There will memorial ceremonies in lower Manhattan and elsewhere, and the New York Mets and Yankees game tomorrow night was specifically scheduled over a year ago as a night of remembrance and reflection.
The date holds a special place for us who lived and worked in sight of the Towers that day. New York is a large and intimidating city, even when compared to other centers of commerce in the United States. There are so many different cultures, lifestyles, occupations, neighborhoods and sub-neighborhoods, each with their own sets of values, interests and pastimes. As such, few bonds of memory or camaraderie unite all New Yorkers. Because of the size and diversity of the City, many of our citizens who commute alongside one another every day share little in common experience.
September 11, 2001 changed all in an instant. As of that morning, all New Yorkers either knew someone who had just been killed, or had lost a family member, or was otherwise directly affected by the terrorist act. The World Trade Center – which only existed for 28 years before September 11, 2001 – was an iconic symbol of the City’s vitality. Everyone knew someone who worked at the Trade Center, which made the event strike us too, even where we were outside the zone of immediate danger. We all have friends who worked there, some of whom were fortunate enough to make their way home that night; others did not reach home, or the embrace of their loved ones.
In the following days and weeks, City workers and residents who used to go about their daily lives separately, now all mourned together. Of course, Americans were all in mourning following September 11, 2001, but New Yorkers’ grief was direct and pointed. Literally millions of us spent those days exchanging calls and texts about people we knew, hoping and praying for good news, offering support to family members and to each other. We had all lost friends and family members, and although we did not choose to, we united as a grieving community.
History teaches, ironically, that tragedy can be a uniting force. While 20 years have passed, the memory still lives in its immediacy.