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New York City – 10 years later

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Rising from the debris of the World Trade Center in New York is the Freedom Tower, which is expected to be completed in 2013. It will be the tallest structure in the nation.

"We are New Yorkers,” a tour guide said as he stood in front of the Freedom Tower. “We are tough and independent. We were humbled after the terrorist attacks, but not because of what the terrorists did to us. We were humbled by the outpouring of love and support that came from people all across America and the world.”

It’s nice to be back in the laid-back South where the language is comprehendible, the weather mild (relatively speaking) and the price of lunch always within reason.

Not that the city I visited in late July was all that bad. One expects high prices and dozens of dialects in New York City. It certainly is one of the most interesting places in the world, once your mind acquires some sense of direction, and you’re willing to accept the likelihood that several people may at once and without warning attempt to occupy the same space at the same time.

But the weather – 103 degrees on Friday, with a heat index of 114 – was enough to melt your shoes. This actually happened to a member of our group, although he’s not sure that a wet sidewalk he walked over prior to the rapid decomposition of his soles might have contained something other than water.

In July 2001, I made this same trip to New York for one of the first Cotton Roundtable events. I stayed at the Marriott Hotel at 3 World Trade Center, next to the gleaming Twin Towers. It was roughly two months before the 9-11 terrorist attacks took the towers down.

The act of violence on that Tuesday morning 10 years ago was meant to not only kill Americans and arrest our nation’s financial heartbeat, but also to maim our spirit. The terrorists presumed that democracy and prosperity had made us soft, and that we would surely cut and run from the fight.

As it turned out, they guessed wrong.

The War on Terror began that morning and continues to this day. Within days after the attack, New Yorkers did the only thing they knew how to do. They went to work to insure that financial exchanges would not miss a beat, and that destroyed buildings would be cleared and rebuilt.

One symbol of that determination, the Freedom Tower, is expected to be completed in 2013. Rising from original Trade Center site, it will be the tallest structure in the nation.

As I stood in the Winter Garden area in Downtown New York in July overlooking the ongoing construction of the Freedom Tower and World Trade Center memorials, a New York tour guide talked not about the destruction of 9-11, but what the aftermath told him about his city and his nation.

“We are New Yorkers,” he said. “We are tough and independent. We were humbled after the terrorist attacks, but not because of what the terrorists did to us. We were humbled by the outpouring of love and support that came from people all across America and the world.”

Ironically, ten years later, the man responsible for the attacks, Osama bin Laden, met an inglorious end, defenseless and unprepared for his pursuers, trapped in a cinder block compound topped with barbed wire from which he had no escape. Any protests he might have uttered went unheeded.

I imagine a lot of New Yorkers were too busy to pay the news much mind. 

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

Torsten Adair (not verified)
on Aug 25, 2011

"I imagine a lot of New Yorkers were too busy to pay the news much mind."

Oh, we noticed. We notice it everyday. It's just another set of rules added to our survival instinct, our "street smarts". But we know that it's just like "Mission Accomplished"... it's a milestone, and the journey continues, and we have to be vigilant.

For most of us following September 11th, after a day of contemplation, relaxation, and community service, we went back to work. It's just another tribulation we have to deal with, just like traffic and long lines and high prices. (That's not to belittle what happened. But for most of us, we make note, then adjust our daily routines to accommodate the "new normal".) Just as we will weather Hurricane Irene, help our neighbors clean up, and continue to persevere. Our neighborhoods are your small towns... it's just that our Main Street might have an elevated subway running down the middle and the local diner might offer roti or jerk chicken! We sent a lot of volunteers down to New Orleans, and many of our colleges accepted students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

It is because of these constant influences that we as New Yorkers are so tolerant. (Remember the peace rallies immediately after 9/11? The lack of retribution in our part of the country? Oh, and that mosque? That was mostly due to outside agitators scoring political points. It's blocks away, and most of us will not give it a second thought, it's just another house of worship.) We do like to complain, but that is just a release valve to help us deal with life's frustrations. Our diversity coupled with our tolerance leads to creativity and innovation, which is why New York City is such an amazing place to live and visit.

I do hope you will follow up this essay with one about what else you saw and did in our fine city. In other words, "Apart from that Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?" Did you visit the New York Botanical Garden and the Pfizer Plant Research Laboratory? Sample our farmers markets and food vans? Marvel at the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, which covers 329 acres? If not, we hope you and your colleagues will return soon! (And if you get homesick, someone somewhere will have the comfort food you crave, and most likely know something about where you're from!)

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