Sunday, September 11, 2011

New York

It was a New York weekend for me.  After visiting the World Trade Center, walking the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time, hearing dozens of kids sing "America the Beautiful" in Union Square, and most recently viewing the amazing Bryant Park 9/11 memorial, I felt compelled to write briefly about the topic that has changed our lives, and indeed the course of history. 
After years of reflection, I continue to be  astounded by the overwhelming influence of the event itself, not to mention the massive chain reaction of geopolitical, economic, religious and social events that followed.  On a personal level, as a New Yorker for almost five years now, I can't help but think that it was people like me who were sitting in those towers ten years ago- just another Tuesday in the office...  Who could have ever guessed?

Whether we like it or not, from the minutiae to the heady, future of the world stuff, 9/11 now colors much of our experience.  When the 47th floor of my office building shook during last month's earthquake, nobody vocalized what everyone was thinking: "have we been hit?  Is this it?"  The cynic in me believes that the cadre of national guard troops on the streets outside our apartment during Hurricane Irene was nothing more than a test run for some future cataclysmic terrorist event.  The possibility of another attack is subdued, but deeply rooted in our minds.  The feeling is glossed away by our daily routine, but screams to the forefront at the first hint of trouble (why is the subway stopping between stops??).   And all this against the backdrop of a substantially weakened Al Qaeda and tremendously improved and better-coordinated security and intelligence outfit.  On my walk home today, I saw no fewer than four police checkpoints, stopping cars, asking questions, keeping us safe.  

In spite of this vigilance, a follow on attack of some kind is perhaps inevitable. Yet we soldier on.  Despite his recent warning of a specific and credible terrorist threat to New York City, Mayor Bloomberg made a point, as he always does, to ride the subway to work on Friday.  A big, NYC middle finger to those who try to disrupt our way of life.  This is one of countless examples of how these attacks have brought out the best in us.  

We have suffered together, and we  have shared together: despair, disbelief, anger, sorrow, hope...  We have been bent, but not broken.  We cannot be broken. 

On September 11, 2001, one reporter watched on live television as the South tower collapsed; he paused, then uttered: "There are no words."  Now, ten years later, we have found our words.  September 11, for better or for worse, has become an indelible part of our collective psyche.  We cannot ignore this fact, nor should we.  We must instead seek to understand and channel this dizzying hodgepodge of emotions and experiences, see through the fog, and move forward together...

But never forget.