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September 11 Anniversary Finds New Yorkers Healed, Resilient

  • Carolyn Weaver

In the decade since the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, New York City has faced other terrorist plots as well as economic upheaval. Yet it has continued to rebuild, attracting new residents and more than 40 million tourists each year. As Carolyn Weaver reports, New Yorkers like to think of themselves as a tough bunch.

New York City seems much the same as it did 10 years ago, the streets bustling with traffic, tourists, and people going about their daily lives. Downtown, the rapidly rising new World Trade Center skyscraper is bringing life back even to Ground Zero. For many New Yorkers, the psychic wounds from 9/11 have also healed.

What's changed

Adam Sills, an English professor who lives in Brooklyn, says the attacks didn’t fundamentally change the city.

"If anything, it sort of confirmed the image of the city that it's always had, which is as a tough and resilient place, that we're able to take on sort of large challenges," notes Sills. "Come what will down the pike, people have this amazing ability to absorb it, and not only absorb it, but kind of even rise above the thing."

Sills’ wife, Jenn Jaffe, says they rarely think about 9/11, although they know that New York remains a likely terrorist target. They have a one-year-old son and are committed to their culturally diverse Brooklyn neighborhood.

"Hi there, sweetie! You look so happy!," exclaims Jaffe as she greets a neighbor. "I like being part of this community, I like being part of this city. And I love the people. I just love the diversity and the vibrancy. I like going down the street and hearing four different languages."

"It's interesting, because New York responded very differently to September 11th than did the rest of the country." says Columbia University psychology professor George Bonanno. He studies grief and collective trauma. Bonanno says research shows New Yorkers recovered more quickly than other Americans.

"Now, compared to the rest of the country, anxiety and generalized distress was high in the rest of the country for several years after 9/11, large-scale, all over the country, [but] that was not really the case in New York," Bonnano says.



Security


Yet, some New Yorkers are still deeply affected. Yudelka Cepeda, a paralegal, lives in the Bronx.

"When they review the images from 9/11, I feel like I want to cry still, and like my heart is broken," admits Cepeda. "Still now, when I'm talking to you, I feel like I want to cry, because of all the memories and things like that. It was hard."

Cepeda says she still loves living in New York - but she does not feel safe, especially on the subway. She wishes her 13-year-old daughter did not have to take the train to school.

"I want to go to a low-key, low-profile city where there's no subways and tall buildings, because I think New York City calls too much attention [to itself] - especially [from] terrorists," Cepeda says.

More committed

Yet others see no point in worrying. Adam Sills says marriage and fatherhood make him, if anything, more committed to New York.

"Having your world centered there, and including something like raising a family there, is in a way, the ultimate statement of, 'I think this is a special, I think this is an important place and it’s so special and so important, that why would that make me, you know, reconsider having children, or having family there in the first place?’" Sills explains.

He is far from alone. One-million more people are expected to move to New York in the next 20 years. They will become part of a city that - 10 years after its greatest disaster - lives in the present and the future, far more than it does in the past.

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