Although a quick tour of the networks is enough to verify the eager attempts of certain ‘influencers’ – and their voracious apprentices – to turn it into an ‘instagrammable’ place, the memorial of the September 11 continues to be a space of recollection that is walked with short steps and in silence, between nostalgia and amazement.
The screams and raucous laughter that abound a few blocks away, among those who stand in endless lines to feel the testicles of the Wall Street bull, do not exist in the so-called Ground Zero, the area where the Twin Towers were erected 20 years ago.
The few voices that can be heard are confused with the murmur of the waterfalls of the two pools built on the place that housed the buildings, framed with bronze plaques that bear inscribed the 2,983 names of the men, women and children who lost the life that morning and in the attack on February 26, 1993.
The spectacle of the waters falling into a deep and dark hole, in the center of each pool, is overwhelming. Immediately the horror of that unfortunate day comes to mind, while the visitor is invaded by sadness and indignation.
A few days ago I visited the area again after three years. The United States mourned its dead for the attack at the Kabul airport and fear spread again in the air. The police presence grew throughout the city, although without being invasive.
Few visitors visited the Oculus, the impressive subway station that resembles a white dove taking flight, and many others sought to enter the museum, where it is possible to hear the recordings of the voices of those who were trapped in the towers and, foreshadowing what worse, they cried out for help.
The World Trade Center, the main building of the complex, looked imposing its 541 meters high, now accompanied by a smaller building – still under construction – that will be dedicated to various uses.
On the plaques placed around the perimeter of each pool, visitors usually place roses, most of them white, and some American flags, as a tribute. That day, in the south pool, a rose stood out for its color: it was yellow. They say it represents the joy of living.
It was standing over Sue Kim Hanson’s name, accompanied by a small photograph of her, her husband Peter, and their daughter Christine. They lived in Boston and on the morning of September 11 they had boarded Flight 175 bound for California.
The plan was to visit family and have fun at Disneyland. It was the first time that Christine, just 2 years old, got on a plane. He was the youngest victim of that day of terror.
The New York renaissance
Last year, New York was the focus of the pandemic. The dead numbered in the thousands and the noise of a tireless, insomniac and living city, home to all possible languages, colors and smells, left its streets. The 20 years of the worst terrorist attack in history find her surviving, struggling with what she can to get back to normal.
With about 55% of its population fully vaccinated, authorities last month organized an open-air mega-concert in Central Park to serve as a symbol of resistance, but also of reopening. The rains caused by Hurricane Henri forced it to be suspended while Barry Manilow sang and Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith had not appeared on stage.
Going back is a non-negotiable priority. Despite being one of the US cities with the highest vaccination rates, local television is bombarded with ads asking people to get vaccinated, reminding them that anyone can do it regardless of their immigration status.
For a few weeks, the vaccination card has been a requirement to enter closed enclosures and in crowded places such as Times Square, various laboratories offer free PCR and antigen tests to whoever wishes.
“Before there were a lot of people on the street,” recalls a New Yorker, daughter of Peruvians, who works in a local bank. From receiving 66.6 million tourists in 2019, only 22.3 million arrived last year. The abundance of closed businesses shows the severity of the crisis.
There is no block where there is no empty lot, be it on Fifth Avenue or 34th Street, where Macy’s survives and the Empire State Building still receives visitors.
The commemoration of this September 11 will not only serve to remind those who are no longer with us and that terror is a cowardly enemy that should not be given an inch of advantage. It will remind you that New York is also a symbol of resistance.