April 17, 2014
New Yorkers: United they stand
By Adrián Royo Caldiz
“This is the new sound of freedom,” a man said to his girlfriend as they stood in line, listening to the many beeps coming out from the several metal detectors being used on civilians by the New York police in order to look for any concealed weapons.
Thousands of people waited patiently at one of the many checkpoints in downtown Manhattan and hoped to be cleared soon so they could get as close as they could to the area where the World Trade Centre used to stand and listen to the anniversary ceremony taking place there. Purses, backpacks, suitcases, everything had to be thoroughly checked. Even cameras and cell phones had to be kept in plain sight.
Once they were cleared, visitors slowly marched towards one of the giant screens set up right next to the Freedom Tower construction site, hoping to catch a glimpse of a ritual that is repeated on every September 11th., in which families of the victims read out loud the names of each and every one of the nearly three thousand people who died that morning.
This year however, the number of visitors to the site was higher than usual, since not only it marked the tenth anniversary but it was also the first one to take place in a post-Osama Bin Laden era. The ceremony was also the first to see former president George W. Bush standing next to president Barack Obama, as they declared the new 9/11 Memorial and Museum officially opened.
Security was very tight in downtown Manhattan, and the recent rumours of a “serious threat” against the US had the local authorities on edge. Since Saturday, the police continued to check vehicles, bridges and tunnels. Roadblocks were set up all around the Times Square and Ground Zero areas, since they were considered to be potential targets.
But despite the inconveniences, business owners in these areas were happy to cooperate with the police, even if it meant a decrease in sales.
“It’s just for today,” says Mike, the owner of an old fashioned barbershop on Church Street, right across from where the police checkpoints are located. “I noticed a lot more security this weekend, and I think it is better for all of us,” he said.
Close to another police checkpoint, a reading room from the Christian Science group had decided to remain open on Sunday “in order to provide people with a sense of goodness.”
“Several people in need of solace have already approached us,” said Kay, one of the shop’s assistants, who had witnessed the endless procession since it began early in the morning. “When the crowd was really big, there was a sense of quietness. There really is a lot of respect going on,” she assured.
Police and firemen from other states had also decided to attend in order to pay their respect for their fallen colleagues, their pristine-looking uniforms standing out from the crowd.
“We will never forget what they did. They inspired us to do good,” a fireman who had traveled all the way from San Francisco said.
Interestingly enough, and despite the ceremony’s solemn tone, many protestors from the so-called “truther” movement could be spotted among the crowd. “I’m here to ask nicely and politely if we could please have some answers as to why the buildings really went down,” said one of the protestors who asked to remain anonymous.
The “truther” movement has raised controversy in the last couple of years since their theory that 9/11 was a government-sponsored attack managed to gain relatively large media exposure.
“I don’t think 9/11 was investigated properly. The government changed stories several times and that makes you a suspect,” he accused.
Their presence there, however, did not disrupt in any way the several moments of silence during the ceremony, first at 8:46 am, when the American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower, and then at 9:03 am when the United Airlines Flight 175 struck the south tower. Two other moments of silence came at 9:37 am and 10:03 am, to mark the crashes of the American Airlines Flight 77 against the Pentagon and the United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania respectively.
Present during the entire ceremony in the Lower Manhattan area were US President Barack Obama, governors Andrew Cuomo (New York) and Chris Christie (New Jersey), and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with their respective predecessors on the day of the attacks, George W. Bush, George Pataki, Donald Di Francesco and Rudolph Giuliani.
Obama chose to read a psalm from the Bible, while Bush picked a letter from Abraham Lincoln addressed to a mother who had lost her five sons in a war.
Once the ceremony was over, everyone went back to their normal lives. The locals went back to work or shop or play sports like any other day, while refusing to become paralyzed by fear.
Even though 9/11 was an event that managed to leave a deep mark in the American psyche while redefining many concepts such as “torture,” “Guantanamo,” and “freedom”, and creating new ones such as “War on Terror,” “Homeland Security” and “color-coded threat,” New Yorkers are proud of their resilience.
Just like Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett said during the 9/11 ceremony, Americans “refuse to be victims.”
“We refuse to settle for the term ‘survivor’. Captivity will not suit us,” he concluded.