Your humble publisher and other Brooklynites reflect on 9/11 in this week’s Brooklyn Paper. Brooklyn poet/laureate Tina Chang, Democratic district leader Chris Owens, NYC Councilmember Brad Lander and others contributed to the section.
Here’s the “director’s cut” of my take:
My father loved four things unconditionally – my mother, me, horse racing and New York City. As a chauffeur who spent a few years working in the Lindsay and Beame administrations, he loved giving tours of Manhattan to visiting dignitaries, flight crews or anyone else riding with him. When the World Trade Center opened in 1973, he revelled in taking my cousins and me to check it out. Seeing that view from the observation deck for the first time was breathtaking. We really could see my house from there! And we got to get some Chinatown egg rolls too! It didn’t get any more New York than that.
On 9/11/01, my Dad said to me the attack was the worst thing he’d ever seen. The response of average New Yorkers and first responders inspired us. The federal government’s color codes, fear mongering and misdirection confounded us.
The in-fighting amongst all our electeds about how to rebuild at Ground Zero didn’t help things either. However, no matter how important it was to rebuild, they were only buildings. The people of the city needed to heal. We all went back to work and tried to act like everything was normal. Except that normal was different now.
In the long term, this new normal wasn’t a “death of innocence” it was the birth of decency. Our perceptions changed. Work/life balance became more important. Becoming a 24/7 workaholic no longer held much of an appeal. There was life to live.
The city came back strong with a new, more humane spirit. Lower Manhattan is revitalized with the energy of young families and new businesses. This vibrant surrounding neighborhood insures that the victims of the attack will be remembered by regular New Yorkers every single day as they pass the World Trade Center Memorial.
Ten years later, Dad is gone and I’m a new father of an 11 month old daughter. Someday, she’ll ask what 9/11 means.
Yes, it was a wake up call reminding us that family is the most important thing in our lives. But we also learned that New Yorkers share a silent camaraderie. Behind each seemingly cranky, frustrated, too-cool-for-the-room face is someone who, when the going gets tough, has got your back.
One day, we’ll visit the 9/11 Memorial to remember those who were lost. And, somewhere, Grampa will be smiling at how the people of his beloved city bounced back, striving every day to make the world a better place.