On the eighth anniversary of 9/11, New York remembers

The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers changed the city profoundly. But for many New Yorkers, life has returned to normal.

Mark Lennihan/AP
The World Trade Center construction site Friday morning in New York.

As it has for the last seven years, New York remembers the 2,993 people killed in the terror attacks of 9/11 2001.

First there is a moment of silence at 8:46, the time when the first jet slammed into the North Tower. Then, church bells toll throughout the city, an apt reminder of a day when many Americans went to houses of worship to pray.

Forty-seven minutes later comes a second moment of silence for when the South Tower was struck.

Names of the victims are read by family members and volunteers. Then the ceremony ends with taps, the haunting bugle call.

"It's goose-bump time for a lot of us; tears for others," says Doug Muzzio, a professor at Baruch College, City University.

At the ceremony, which takes place Friday at the site of the former towers, the Obama administration will be represented by Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, as well as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

But many New Yorkers – while respecting the day – are pretty much back to normal, says Mr. Muzzio. "Time does heal wounds," he says.

For example, like other New Yorkers, he no longer freezes when he hears sirens. On 9/11, scores of fire trucks – sirens blaring – and hundreds of police cars headed for lower Manhattan.

Now, New Yorkers have become used to the police surges when 10 or 20 police cars weave through the streets with the sirens on. "And when there is an international incident, it evokes some of that feeling," says Muzzio, whose office is close to the New York Armory where relatives posted photos of their loved ones, hoping that someone knew of a hospital or a stranger's home where they might have gone or been taken.

In yet other ways, the city is back to normal. Immediately after 9/11, the city suffered a drop in tourist visits. But lured by a weaker dollar and New York's marketing, it has recovered. Even with the recession, the city is still expecting 44.7 million visitors, about a 5 percent decline over last year.

Lower Manhattan itself is also continuing to recover, says Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a select group of CEOs who try to work with city government and labor for development purposes.

"We have more retail and double the residential development that we had before 9/11," says Ms. Wylde. "It's the strongest community we've had in a century."

However, work on the World Trade Center site itself has been slow. "It's still a hole in the ground," complains Muzzio, blaming "a lack of leadership and direction from the top."

But the city has learned it has to be patient, Wylde says, because of health and environmental reasons. For example, it has taken over three years to tear down the former Deutsche Bank building, which is close to the site, because of asbestos issues.

"The politics of the site created unrealistic expectations for the general public," she says. "In terms of what it takes to build a huge, complicated project in the city, this is fast."

The most important date, she says, will be the 10th anniversary of 9/11. "We've always thought of the 10th anniversary as the time to see the September 11 Memorial & Museum done, and some sense the site is near completion."

On Thursday, the Memorial design was unveiled. Steven Davis of Davis Brody Bond Aedas, the architect, described the design of the museum as "the synthesis of a variety of experiences and will mediate between our memories and the realities of the events of 9/11."


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