New York City, 10 Years Later (Almost)
I first visited New York City and Ground Zero in January of 2011. Although only eight months until the ten-year anniversary, the site appeared nothing more than a huge construction zone with a bunch of half-finished buildings and a more-than-average amount of American flags flying near. The dirt was hard-packed, the site trampled upon, and men stood all around the outside, selling picture books of that day in 2001.
I revisited the site just a few days before the tenth anniversary, on September 8, 2011. No one called it “Ground Zero” anymore; it has reclaimed its World Trade Center name, and the Freedom Tower, although still unfinished, glistened proud and free above the hallowed site. I walked a full circle around the entire site; what was once shrouded in secrecy behind mesh fences and heavy security is now a site with many areas from which to view it. Although the security is still understandingly heavy, the public is now free to view the transformation from outside. As of September 12, 2011, they will be able to go inside and see what this site of destruction has become in the last ten years.
From my 360 degree views, I could see the trees that were planted anew (none of which were damaged by Hurricane Irene), and I could see the tridents from the twin towers inside the memorial building, standing proud and tall over what was once their dominion. I could see that the North Tower Footprint Reflection Pool is in working order, the falling water shining in the sun in the memory of those that lost their lives. I couldn’t get close enough to read the names engraved around the edge, but soon those names will be read and remembered by thousands.
In many ways, New York City hasn’t changed. Most of the buildings that were damaged have been restored, and the other parts of the city function as before. New Yorkers are still in-your-face, with the same energy and I’ll-cross-the-street-whenever-the-hell-I-want attitude. But in many ways, New York will never be the same. The skyline is forever changed. Downtown is not only a financial and business hub, but also a place of quiet deference and respect. The ironworkers are now considered heroes with the police and firemen, as they do their best to honor those fallen. New Yorkers may now be known as the toughest and most resilient people on the planet, as they look up to the sky, hold a hand or two, and remember what it is to be American.