I woke up this morning forgetting the date. It took mere minutes for Facebook to remind me. And then I remembered another thing: I live in New York City now, and work remotely, which gave me a unique opportunity to actually go to the former site of the Twin Towers on a 9/11 anniversary for the first time.
The 35-minute subway ride dumped me at Fulton Street and I quickly could tell where I needed to go by the throngs of people walking. Once down toward the river, I gazed up at One World Trade Center and the empty space next to it that, once complete, will be the World Trade Center Complex. You can’t see anything there. It’s blocked by NYPD, a gate and a banner advertising the new buildings that will someday occupy that space.
The 9/11 Memorial itself was closed to the public today so the families of those who died that day good grieve and remember in peace. Peace — amidst a pro-Palestine rally where a man held up a sign claiming “Satan lives in Israel,” hordes of people with cameras who kept clashing with cops telling them to move it along and a bar pulsing with members of the NYPD and FDNY and their families. And it all struck me in a way it hadn’t before, now that I live here and see the chaos of the city everyday. For a city like New York, this day must have felt like God himself shook Earth.
There are horrible things that happen in New York and other cities and countries around the world every single day. But a personal violation so colossal that the site of the Twin Towers still remains gutted these dozen years later can’t help but transform a place forever. It makes it harder, stronger, more suspicious, but also more grateful. You can debate forever the good and bad that’s happened to America since September 11, 2001, why the Twin Towers site is still being rebuilt, while there are still terrorist attacks like the Boston Marathon, why some people still hate all Muslims because of the actions of a few. You cannot debate the soul of New York, its willingness to fall to its knees in prayer and in thanks, to howl when it’s angry, to cry when it’s had a piece torn out of it.
And for you, New York City, my new home, I will never forget.