Today marks the seventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on this nation. Once again, the bell will toll, the names of the dead read aloud, as New York commemorates that day with a fine blend of solemnity and political photo ops.
Nevertheless, the trauma that was 9/11 has vanished with the dust and debris of that horrible day. If any trauma still exists, it’s been secreted within the nooks and crannies of private thoughts amid the seclusion of private lives. In New York City’s post-9/11 aftermath, however, appearance is often everything and revitalization is incredibly everywhere as the city enjoys a heightened prosperity and renewed popularity. Even though it’s been only seven years ago, the 9/11 terrorist attacks could have just as well occurred seventy years ago. Indeed, the city is changing…for the better?
An unexpected building boom has swept New York, with newfangled luxury high-rises rising up all around the city. In fact, the cost of real estate and housing has skyrocketed as older New Yorkers move out of the city and are replaced with a cosmopolitan breed of outrageously affluent new New Yorkers. Fashionable restaurants, elegant boutiques and stylish salons attract endless crowds of the wealthy to their doors.
Events ranging from ball games to theatrical shows are sold-out, with still more lines continuously forming for the latest spectacle. Times Square, Lincoln Center, the Empire State Building, and the entire catalog of NYC’s wide array of museums, galleries and other attractions, are packed with tourists and residents alike. On a daily basis, people stroll, jog, ride their bicycles and romance through the parks and lanes of the city…often within blocks of Ground Zero.
The World Trade Center, never as popular in the nearly thirty years of its life as in the years immediately following its death, brought millions from all over the world to view its grave with the publicized inscription “Ground Zero.” Gently pressing and politely jostling to peer through high wire fences encircling a 16-acre construction site (a Scar in the city, for those of us who saw and felt it) people speaking dozens of languages were heard on the wind and, through the workaday dissonance of riveting guns and heavy machinery, expressing feelings of sadness or curiosity or excitement. Photos would be taken, souvenirs bought, and the visitors would leave to be replaced by yet more. But the novelty of this one of a kind attraction wore thin as time wore on.
Seven years later the visitors are fewer to this murder scene of terrorism; the subject of terrorism itself drawing less interest and concern. Jaded by America’s convoluted and aimless response to 9/11 and absorbed by their natural need to live their own lives, people have grown tired of 9/11 memorials in particular and are bored by the overall war on terror in general. New Yorkers themselves walk down the once dust-coated streets leading to Ground Zero and pass the spot, for over three months piled high with twisted, smoldering girders, the air once acrid with the stench of death, and barely glance at this uniquely unforgettable yet apparently forgotten scene. If the truth be known, I’m quite tired and bored with the whole mess myself and will join my fellow New Yorkers in letting the dead bury the dead and partake of the bread and circuses…and hope that we don’t bury ourselves as well.
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