It was a day that few could have imagined a decade ago, when downtown New York was covered in dust and the twin towers were reduced to smoking ruins. On that Tuesday 10 Septembers ago, it was impossible to imagine how the city would overcome this terrible blow. It was impossible to imagine moments of reflection, impossible to imagine years of recovery and renewal.
Time has not healed the wounds of those who lost loved ones on 9/11. That was so painfully clear during the ceremonies commemorating the 10th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center. Teenage children spoke of parents they barely remember; parents and spouses renewed their promise to never forget their loss.
They gathered where the towers once stood, the place where nearly three thousand people met a terrible end on a bright, sunny, New York morning at the dawn of a new century. For those they left behind, and, indeed, for the rest of us as well, the sight of that awful pile of steel and concrete at Ground Zero will never fade.
But now, a decade later, the pile is gone. A new tower is climbing into the downtown skyline. The Trade Center’s footprint is preserved in a touching, meaningful memorial. Nearby buildings have been repaired and returned to use. The city still grieves and will continue to grieve for decades to come. But the city still lives.
The ceremonies were a poignant reminder of the lives that were lost or shattered on Sept. 11, 2001. But they also offered reason for hope. The renewal of Ground Zero and of downtown has been more than an economic enterprise. It is nothing less than a reconstruction of the city’s spirit, an assurance that those who wished to destroy us have not succeeded and will never succeed.
New York has known better times than 2011, but it remains what it was on Sept. 10, 2001—the world’s most exciting, vibrant, tolerant and diverse city. Terrorism, even on the spectacularly evil scale of 9/11, hasn’t changed that.
Just a few days before the city paused to reflect and remember, on the night of Sept. 8, thousands of people gathered downtown, in the meatpacking district, and along Madison Avenue to take part in the third annual Fashion’s Night Out celebration. Stores stayed open late, celebrities waved to adoring crowds, designers held court in trendy boutiques, and residents and commuters alike created a night of spectacle, glamour, silliness and just plain fun. The brainchild of Anna Wintour, Fashion’s Night Out spoke to the enduring resilience of a city that seemed so vulnerable 10 years ago.
New Yorkers will not soon forget the terror of 9/11 and the courage that marked the weeks that followed, when brave men and women picked through the pile to begin the process of recovery. But they also know that from those terrible depths must come renewal.
The anniversary ceremonies were one way of paying tribute to the fallen. But we honor them, too, when we simply go about our lives without fear, and when we renew a city that seemed so gravely wounded 10 years ago.