Stronger than ever

What a decade it has been since 9/11/2001 — a devastation and a decade that have totally transformed our neighborhoods.

Our coverage in The Villager and our sister paper, Downtown Express, over the past 10 years — of 9/11 itself and its still ongoing reverberations — has detailed Downtown New York’s continuing struggles with the pain, horror and dislocation of 9/11; the enormous efforts to get people back into their homes and businesses; and the sheer pulling ourselves together, all of which give an overwhelming American and New York response to terror: You cannot break us, we will only come back stronger. 

Those who live and work Downtown, and even some who don’t, will well remember the nerve-racking dramas of our children being transported to welcoming schools outside the district; of parents demanding environmental and pollution analyses to see if they could get their kids back into their own schools; of businesses trying to open their doors to see if they still had any customers; and of the leaders of our nation, state and city formulating (and reformulating) a massive resolve to rebuild Downtown, and the World Trade Center site itself. 

The W.T.C. rebuilding process, at the end of day, is one of the most remarkable and democratic building experiments ever put in play — a vast plebiscite on who we are as a people and how we can come together for a common purpose and actually get, not just something done but, God willing, something extraordinary done. 

It’s clear from a review of our last decade’s articles that our community’s 10-year response to tragedy and rebuilding was not easy. It was done in fits and starts, it had huge delays, there was sometimes great political and civic vision, and sometimes great political discontinuity and failures of vision.

What comes through in the end is something of the essence and strength of a healthy urban democratic process. Citizens and civic groups mobilized impressively to rebuild a community. Leaders emerged who listened, planned and implemented a vast development process that deepened the area’s residential presence and diversified its commercial makeup. The resulting mixed-use neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan are much more stable than pre-9/11, more able to weather economic challenges and other dislocations. 

What has resulted is a better, more sustainable and robust Downtown, one that has doubled its population since 9/11 and is today among the most livable and dynamic neighborhoods in the entire city.

Downtown is clearly back, and stronger. It is a story we can all be deeply proud of.

This May, under President Barack Obama, a daring raid by U.S. Navy Seals finally took out 9/11’s mastermind, Osama bin Laden.

Although it was a major relief — and a bittersweet victory — to have finally eliminated bin Laden, we must still remain vigilant. New York is still a terrorist target, and our local and federal law enforcement must stay on point. This struggle, unfortunately, will be ongoing — probably for decades.

But out of the death, devastation and despair of 9/11, we managed to come together. We began to feel closer to people whom we had perhaps just passed by in the past. We looked at our police and firefighters in a new way — realizing they are on the “front lines” of this new war. Ultimately, we realized we’re all in this together.

New York has sprung back, stronger than ever. That’s how New York is: We pick ourselves up and move on with our lives. We’re tough. We do what we have to do. We get it done.

But we will never forget 9/11 and its victims, and its heroes, too, and the Twin Towers. We still stand tall.