Holding and lending hands to remember

Howard Sadowsky (left) with his sons, Walter and Ezra, and their friend, Gabe Conley (right) at C.B. 1’s “Hand in Hand” event on Saturday morning. Downtown Express photo by Aline Reynolds


The nation mourned, in a variety of ways, last Sunday as it commemorated the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Lower Manhattan was jam-packed with thousands of tourists and victims’ family members from all over the country, many of them anxious to visit a memorial that was a decade in the waiting.

For Downtown residents, the hoards of out-of-towners, media and police that crowd the streets around Ground Zero every year on the anniversary can be taxing. So rather than join the masses, many of them decided to observe the anniversary in a more serene, intimate fashion on Saturday, starting by holding hands. It was a gesture to indicate that, 10 years later, they were still there, living or working Downtown, and as united as ever.

Approximately 5,000 people partook in the “Hand in Hand, Remembering 9/11” event, hosted by Community Board 1, on Saturday morning and formed a human chain along the Hudson River that stretched from south of Battery Park’s Castle Clinton all the way up to Chambers Street.

Among the participants were Lower East Side resident Lillian Ng, her husband and their two kids.

“I don’t plan on doing anything special tomorrow. This is the day,” said Lillian minutes before the ceremony. “We thought it was a good way for our young children to experience the [anniversary] without it being overwhelming to them.”

“I’m slowly trying to accept what happened,” said Lillian’s husband, Sherman Ng, who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald in the North Tower. Partaking in the Hands event, he said, “is my [way of] giving back respect for my friends and co-workers who passed away that day.”

Financial District resident Joanne Fernando came with her husband, Quentin English and their six-year-old daughter, Chloe, for similar reasons.

“I just thought [the Hands ceremony] was the right thing to do, ‘cause tomorrow is going to be kind of chaotic,” said Fernando. “Being down here with this kind of event… just made it more local.”

“The physical thing of joining hands is literally coming together as a community,” said English.

Like the Ng family, the English family had nothing special planned for the actual anniversary.

“I think we’re probably just going to stay put and let [the families] have their day tomorrow,” said English.

Former Battery Park City resident Aparna Khera, who was volunteering at the event, retold the story of how she found herself assisting other evacuees at a shelter in Jersey City on 9/11.

“No matter what culture, race or religion you are, we’re all part of the same human kind, and that’s sort of what a human chain should represent,” Khera said. “[Holding hands] is to show that we still believe in each other.”

When the clock struck 8:41 a.m., Khera and other volunteers ushered the participants into a line along the Hudson River waterfront. As they found a spot in the chain, some chatted with strangers about their 9/11 experiences, while others embraced friends and family members.

“This is an opportunity for us to come together so my kids can have these freedoms and not be scared and feel what we felt that day,” said B.P.C. resident Liz Sadowsky, tearing up as she clutched the hand of her seven-year-old son, Walter. “It lets everyone know that we were standing strong, we will band together and we’re not going to run.”

“I’m here today to remember the Twin Towers,” interjected Walter, who wore matching American flag bandanas with his younger brother, Ezra and their nine-year-old friend, Gabe Conley.

Seconds later, the bell rang again to mark 8:46 a.m. — the exact time American Airlines Flight 11 tore a large hole into the North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001. On this Saturday, it marked the time to take the hand of the person next to you. As several seconds passed, all one heard besides one’s inner thoughts were a East River ferryboat and a plane flying overhead.

U.S. Congressman Carolyn Maloney and dozens of other “Hands” participants scribbled poignant messages onto a “wall of remembrance” that was mounted in Battery Park. A portion of the wall will be included in the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum’s permanent collection. In the background, the 3,000 flags memorializing the 9/11 victims waved in the wind.

Duane Malott, who trekked all the way from Pennsylvania to attend the ceremony, wrote a message for the wall about how he developed a special connection with Downtown while taking night classes in the Woolworth building a few years back.

“It’s sad, but at the same time, it’s nice to be at an event like this to think of the people who were lost and the friends and family who are struggling to this day,” said Malott.

Standing next to Malott was Dorothy Bardin, who was contemplating what to write on the colored index card she was holding.

“You relive so many things in your memory from that day,” said Bardin, who witnessed the bedlam at the World Trade Center from four blocks away. “We all need healing. Even 10 years later.”

Painting to heal and remember
Neighborhood parents and youths fought off the intermittent rain on Saturday afternoon and schlepped to Pier 25 to contribute to a mural project organized by Manhattan Youth. The goal of the program, dubbed “Art Shack,” was to create a series of murals that would cover the rail along Pier 25 and other sections of the Hudson River Park waterfront. The end goal was to create enough artwork that would be longer than the height of the future 1776-foot-tall One W.T.C., according to Manhattan Youth executive director Bob Townley.

As Townley watched the kids and parents paint, he spoke about the evolution of the Downtown Community Center since 2001.

“We’ve expanded tremendously, by thousands of members. If you asked me the day after 9/11 how I think we would have come back…” said Townley, pausing in mid-thought. “I think 9/11 for me is about thanks and caring, as opposed to developments.”

Tribeca parent Jean Nizalowski, stopped by Pier 25 with her 15-year-old son, Joshua Lorberblatt.

“He was in kindergarten at P.S. 234 when [the terrorist attacks] happened,” said Nizalowski, glancing at her son as he painted a teardrop falling into a plant.

Coming together as a community to create a mural, Nizalowski said, “is a way to heal some of the old wounds that are still there. It’s tears from [9/11] receding into a tree, which symbolizes life,” said Nizalowski as her son finished his painting.

“I wanted to show how sadness kind of turns into life and a new beginning,” said Joshua.

SoHo resident Giulia Alimonti’s 12-year-old daughter, Sarah, who attends P.S. 89, was too young to recall the chaos that day.

“Today, I wanted her to be here to help her form some sort of memory,” said the mother.

“[9/11] was the first day of nursery school,” said Sarah as she sketched out a butterfly on the canvas. “I thought, if I came here today, I can remember 9/11, Manhattan Youth and how this community has bloomed.”

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew also stopped by the pier to paint with the youths.

“It’s giving the right ideas about recognizing what happened on 9/11, but also at the same time saying, we’re children, we’re growing, we’re creative, we respect that, and we all have to learn from it,” Mulgrew said of the project.

Painting alongside the children, Mulgrew said, made him realize that many of them comprehended the sanctity of the weekend.

“If you look at what they’re painting, it’s clear that some of them do understand it,” said Mulgrew.

Crafting symbols of peace
Over at the B.P.C. Library, a group of about 40 neighborhood children and their parents came in to celebrate the branch’s “Peace Crane Day” by crafting hundreds of paper cranes, an international symbol of peace. While some of the trinkets, attached by beads and string, already hung at the library’s entrance and along the walls of its adult and children rooms, the ones the children were making on Saturday afternoon would get their own dedicated space in the library, according to branch manager Billy Parrott.

“The idea was that, starting four months ago, we were going to make 1,000 paper cranes [to commemorate 9/11],” said Parrott. “Today probably bumped us over 1,000.”

A couple of volunteers on hand, such as Eileen Colleran, guided the kids through the steps of folding the pieces of paper into the shape of a crane.

“I think the kids are happy to partake in crafts project,” said Colleran while assisting six-year-old P.S. 150 student, Nell Tov.

Colleran said some of the kids were aware of the day’s significance.

“I want my kids to grow up being involved in events that promote awareness and understanding, the sensitivity of 9/11 and other tragedies and difficulties people have to go through,” said Nell’s mother, B.P.C. resident Basia Tov.

While her eight-year-old son grasps certain aspects of the attacks, Nell, she said, isn’t quite there yet.

“I think it’s nice to have activities for [the kids], regardless,” said Tribeca resident Netta Levy. “If they can make a connection between some of these activities and what’s happening outside, that’s even better.”

Saying ‘thank you’
At New York Downtown Hospital, a group of 32 youths banded together to write cards, make ribbon pins, fold “Hands” t-shirts and craft colorful stars they used to fill miniature replicas of the Twin Towers.

Later that afternoon, the group walked through the hospital’s five floors, handing out the mementos to the nurses and doctors on duty that couldn’t attend the “Hands” event that morning.

“I think we just wanted to get together and do something good for 9/11,” said volunteer Lisa Isoldi, a B.P.C. resident. “We’ve been sitting and talking about it for a while. I thought the best way to do it would be at Downtown Hospital.”

“It’s been heavy on my heart that [the 9/11 victims] went to work just like every other day, and it was the last day they ever went. I think about it every day I go to work,” said volunteer Danielle Thibault, who moved to New York City earlier this year.

On one of the floors, Thibault handed staff housekeeper Jose Menez a ribbon and t-shirt. The employee thanked her and began recollecting the days and weeks after the attacks.

“I remember those hard days when we worked too hard,” said Menez.” It was very hard to breathe, and we were wearing masks.”

Steven Vince, a registered nurse at Downtown Hospital for 21 years, then took the volunteers on a tour of the hospital’s emergency room. He was teaching a class on the 17th floor of the adjacent building when the attacks occurred.

“I walked across and heard all of the sirens going off, but I never thought to look up,” Vince told the volunteers. “As I’m speaking to you, I can actually see the image of the tower, and all these little pieces of paper coming out of the building.”

On a more positive note, Vince said, “It’s amazing I’m still here, 10 years later. It was great the way that the community and so many New Yorkers came together [on 9/11] and were willing to help.”

Stuart Klein, who joined his co-workers in the volunteer effort that day, noticed the gratitude of the staff when they were given the trinkets.

“It seems like all the nurses and staff here are actually enjoying and appreciating the fact that we’re handing these things out,” Klein said as he walked down to the second floor of the building. “It’s important to come together and try to turn a tragedy into something decent, I guess.”