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New York City Sights – 9/11/09

By Brian | September 11, 2009 | Share on Facebook

It’s time for a very special edition of New York City Sights which, of course, coincides with my annual tradition of posting some thoughts about the anniversary of September 11, 2001 (others can be found here: 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)

We start with a sight that few people see on television. It’s one of the last beams that was removed from the World Trade Center site (“Ground Zero”) when the massive clean-up effort ended in early November, 2001. These two beams, which the attacks left in the shape of a cross, were ceremoniously removed from the pit by the rescue workers and mounted outside the city courthouse a few blocks away.

Next, a view of downtown Manhattan, as it looks today:

Now that they’ve been gone for eight years, I think we forget just how massive and skyline-defining those towers were. Here’s a feeble attempt to draw them into the above picture (this isn’t accurate in any real sense, although I did look at about a dozen pictures taken from the Hudson river to approximate size and position, so it’s pretty close):

And now, if you’ll permit me, a few thoughts:

This is the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks under a new President. Barack Obama is nothing if not eloquent, and I’m sure his words will be heartfelt and bring comfort to those who need it. Still, it is just now occurring to me for the first time that the President of the United States addressed a joint session of Congress on September 9, 2009 and didn’t as much as mention the upcoming anniversary. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing or a bad thing, mind you, just noting how different it is. It’s inconceivable that George W. Bush would give a speech in that chamber on September 9th of any year without at least noting the upcoming anniversary.

Again, without casting any aspersions on Barack Obama whatsoever, I get the feeling that no president will ever take 9/11/01 as personally as George W. Bush did. And this gives me pause, because quite frankly, it’s just as personal to me this year as it was last year. The local TV stations will cover the reading of the names as they always do, but I note on the TV listings that the Today show’s planned programming is “Today’s Pets, real estate, personally tailored diets, and ambush makeovers.”

The nation is truly moving on. Re-reading some of my older posts, I realize that I am moving on as well. It’s the signs that point it out so explicitly that bother me, I think. If you’re reading this, I hope that you are moving on as well, and that my words haven’t interrupted that process. But as we move on, I think it’s healthy to take a moment, especially today, and look back.

God Bless America.

Topics: New York, New York | 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “New York City Sights – 9/11/09”

  1. Janet says at September 11th, 2009 at 7:16 am :
    On September 11, 2002, I was in the classroom with around 250 undergraduates. I spent a lot of time thinking about what to say; we were talking about something hundreds of years earlier, but knew I needed to say something. In the end, I told this story that I’d heard, and I told it again on other anniversaries since:

    There was a kid who didn’t seem to have much idea of what was going on in the world. The kid’s parents were really frustrated by this; the child didn’t even seem to have much idea of where the different countries were on the globe. One day a world map happened to be printed in the newspaper. One of the parents ripped the page out, tore it into pieces like a jigsaw puzzle, and sat the child down with some tape and instructions not to get up until the map was correctly reconstructed. Much sooner than the parent expected, the child appeared with the page taped back together. The parent was amazed; how had the child managed the task so quickly? The kid turned the piece on newsprint over and showed a picture of a person – that was the side the child had put back together, and reassembling the person had fixed the global map on the other side.

    Sometimes the planet’s problems seem too huge even to know how to start doing something about them. But the way to put the world back together is one person at a time.

  2. Jeff Porten says at September 11th, 2009 at 12:21 pm :
    You and I have very different views on 9/11 and its aftermath, so I’ll try to say this as politely as possible….

    My 9/11 moment was that evening, or the day after — can’t remember exactly, but I can tell you that I was standing next to a newspaper box in front of my neighborhood Starbucks. It suddenly hit me that they hadn’t really hurt us. Killed us, yes; destroyed property and infrastructure, yes; caused a deep national tragedy, yes. But none of that harmed the country as a whole. They intended it as a decapitation strike, but the sole damage they were capable of was post-traumatic shock.

    Say what you will about that conclusion — if you’re a patriot, you have to agree it is good thing for your country to be strong enough to withstand an attack.

    It’s the same way for remembrance; the longer there is a national mania to commemorate the event annually, the more clearly you were hurt. The sooner you are able to stop obsessing over the trauma, the quicker you have healed. Works the same for countries as for individuals. I have no doubt that 9/11, like D-Day, will be a quinquennial event for our lifetimes — and little doubt that it will be forgotten shortly thereafter. When was the last time you thought about the WWI armistice on November 11?

  3. jason says at September 11th, 2009 at 1:36 pm :
    Maybe it’s because I don’t see that skyline every day and haven’t gotten used to its new configuration, but I think it still looks very weird without those towers. Like the city is unbalanced or something. Incidentally, what’s going on with the Freedom Tower? Is it actually under construction yet? We don’t get much word about it out here in the hinterlands…

    I agree with you that no other president is going to have the connection to 9/11 that Pres. Bush did. For better or worse, that event defined his presidency, his legacy, and in a lot of ways, his life. I would guess that the farther we get from his presidency, the less we’re going to hear about it from official sources except on the anniversary itself.

    For what it’s worth, though — and with all due respect to your emotions, Brian, which are obviously still very much invested in this subject — I think it’s healthy that the nation is moving on. I’m sure we will continue to observe this date for decades to come, but we can’t — nor should we, in my opinion — maintain the level of intensity that we demonstrated in the first few years.

  4. Brian says at September 12th, 2009 at 10:35 pm :
    @Jeff – I’d say they didn’t destroy us, but it’d be hard to argue they didn’t hurt us. Lots of things are different now than they were before – how we board airplanes, how we track our money, how we protect our office buildings, etc.. So not a decapitation, but certainly a bruise. And a bruise that is slowly healing at that…

    As I said in my post, and to both Jeff and Jason’s points, I am moving on and I’m pleased that the nation is as well – even if the annual cold-water-in-the-face realization of it is a bit uncomfortable.

    I’d caution, though, against the attitude that “the longer there is a national mania to commemorate the event annually, the more clearly you were hurt.” This isn’t a contest. The goal isn’t to prove that we weren’t hurt. The national mania should stop when we, collectively, don’t need or want it anymore. And that’s what is happening now. A new President is a useful tool in this regard, I think – he helps the nation separate itself a bit more from the attack.

    And by the way, credit where credit is due – kudos to George W. Bush for not scheduling any public appearances on Friday – he released a statement honoring the victims, their families and those serving the country, and then stayed out of the spotlight. It was the right thing to do…

  5. Brian says at September 12th, 2009 at 10:38 pm :
    @Jason – the Freedom Tower is being built as we speak. The ever-revised schedule, I believe, is to have it open on 9/11/11 (the ten year anniversary of the attack).

    I publshed some photos of it back in April. I haven’t been downtown on business in a little while, but the next time I go, I’ll try to remember to get some more photos and keep folks updated…

  6. jason says at September 13th, 2009 at 1:22 am :
    Ah, I’d forgotten about the photos from back in April. April is so long ago, you know? :) Thanks for the update, anyhow.

    I agree, incidentally, with your comment about Dubya. I may not like the guy, but he handled this anniversary with class.

  7. Brian says at September 13th, 2009 at 1:28 pm :
    Not a problem, Jason. Coincidentally, someone on my Facebook feed (Jeff Porten, of frequent ISBS comment fame), posted some more pictures just recently, these from Boston.com:


    Warning: the set includes some pictures from the attacks themselves, so those who don’t want to see that sort of thing should avoid the link.

  8. Seven Years On | Simple Tricks and Nonsense says at January 23rd, 2014 at 1:41 pm :
    [...] even he notes in his thoughts today that the country is finally moving on. And that, as much as anything, is what prompted me to dust [...]


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