A Year Later

Written on September 11, 2009 at 09:57 pm

Note: This post is from a text file on my hard drive that was created on 9/9/2002 at 9:16 am. I was asked to write it by the Orange County News, a weekly section of the Beaumont Enterprise.

It’s hard to believe it has been a year. Thinking back, I can account for the time–but it just doesn’t feel like it has been that long.

I spent six weeks living on a friend’s couch. I moved back home as soon as I could, which probably wasn’t the smartest idea. I had digestive and respiratory problems for the next 2 months – until the fires were put out in late December. Then came a very hard decision – stay in Battery Park City (the area built on the landfill from the World Trade Center construction), or flee like the majority of my neighbors did. I love my neighborhood. Unlike much of the city, there are no bars on windows or metal grates blocking store-fronts at night. There are numerous parks, including basketball and volleyball courts. You can sit on a bench overlooking the Statue of Liberty and forget you are in the largest city in the country.

But businesses were gone. Six months has passed and my favorite restaurant still hadn’t re-opened. Neither had the movie theater or a number of other restaurants. There was no replacement for the farmer’s market in the World Trade Center parking lot where I bought fresh bread and produce. I would be living next to a construction site for years. My preferred subway would take at least two years to re-open, since it passed directly underneath the towers.

Against the advice of almost everyone I knew, I decided to stay. I couldn’t think of myself as a quitter. Things could only get better. I signed a two-year lease on a new apartment in the same building, cutting my rent by 20% in the process (the one advantage of everyone else leaving).

A year later, things still aren’t back to normal–but I try to think of them that way. It was only a few months ago I finally was able to walk by Ground Zero and not have to hold back tears. I still can’t walk by the walls of photographs of the dead and not tear up. If I’d been on time for work, my photo might be there.

The other hard part is the lack of respect being given to downtown residents. Signs went up this weekend saying no parking. Residents will have to park their cars in garages at $30+ a night so that the news trucks have a place to park. I understand how the rest of America wants to remember what happened, but do network affiliates from Florida and Alabama really need their own reporters here at our expense?

I have physical therapy on the morning of the eleventh (I had spine surgery last month and am still recovering) and wonder if I can make it through the crowds of people and blocked streets.

The city has been having meetings, asking citizens what should replace the towers. A number of the plans include sinking the street on the east side of my building. People who don’t live in my neighborhood (and some who are over an hour away – New York City is huge) are deciding if I have to listen to jackhammers every day for the next 2-5 years.

We have a beautiful marina, filled with everything from small sailboats and catamarans to private yachts. But a businessman and “business-oriented” politicians want to turn it into a crowded ferry terminal for his ships. Residents were able to stop it from happening this year through petitions and community activism, but next year is still uncertain.

Even then, it is hard to stay upset. I walked by the World Financial Center Saturday and the construction there is finished. The atrium (which used to connect to the World Trade Center by a walkway) will be re-opened on Wednesday. The palm trees and glass ceiling have been replaced, and hopefully the stores have, too.

Rumor has it that the Cortland Street subway station will re-open too. That stop had entrances inside the WTC complex, and for the last month you could see into the pit of Ground Zero when your train passed through the station.

Our community is stronger than I’ve ever seen. We’re having a neighborhood block party later this month, and there are numerous social events for neighborhood singles to get together and meet. People smile at you when walking down the street, something I hadn’t seen before in a large city. While we’ve been through unimaginable hardship, in some ways we are better for it. We suffered, we survived, and we’re getting on with our lives. We are the winners, not the terrorists.