News / USA

A Death Scene on 9/11, Lower Manhattan Now Brims with Life

Peter Fedynsky

The attack on the World Trade Center's Twin Towers in New York 10 years ago not only destroyed the skyscrapers, it changed the character of life in the surrounding neighborhood.  In the past decade, the area has evolved from its business oriented past, when it was known only as the Financial District, to a family-friendly enclave referred to as the Diaper District. 

Stephanie Hryckowian, the daughter of a Ukrainian immigrant who owned the Beekman Deli, a thriving family business that served office workers from the Twin Towers for a quarter century says Osama bin Laden’s terrorist attack devastated her life.

"When the president said they got Osama, I sat there crying, because I was so happy they got that **** ‘cause he ruined our lives," she says.

Hryckowian's deli went from making $25,000 a week profit to nothing.

"We were sitting pretty before that [9/11].  After that, it all disappeared," she recalls.

The deli folded and the location is now occupied by a Bank of America ATM center.

Nearby is one of the office buildings formerly served by the Beekman Deli.  Like many older buildings in Lower Manhattan, it was abandoned by businesses and reconverted for residential use after September 11.  The area now has 56,000 residents - more than twice it had 10 years ago.

People relax under shade trees at the British Garden at Hanover Square in New York. Out of the ashes of 9/11 has risen a vibrant neighborhood packed with new restaurants and hotels, places to live and spots to shop, along with many ways to pay respects to an area some worried would never come back.

"Today, the Financial District has the highest concentration of households with children in the city," says newcomer Luis Vazquez.

In fact, so many children that The New York Times  dubbed the area the "Diaper District". The local baby boom is hard to miss - scores of children play in a riverfront park, mothers push baby strollers down side streets, and pass by the former Beekman Deli.  

"It’s nice to see that in the shadow of that there are all these children and there are all these activities, and it has become a wonderful destination," says Jocelyn Zoland, who saw one of the planes crash into the World Trade Center.  "We’ll see if things change though."  

Zoland says that change could include millions of tourists expected to flood the area with the completion of a 9/11 museum at Ground Zero, and tens of thousands of new office workers who will occupy Freedom Tower, a skyscraper being built to replace the Twin Towers.

The Beekman Deli is gone. Many neighboring businesses remain shuttered. But Stephanie Hryckowian says what did not disappear was the deli’s obligation to pay its lease through 2004, as well as taxes.  Those debts cost Hryckowian $500,000 in savings. She now rents out her home and lives with relatives.

"We have no health insurance," she laments. "We have no 401K [retirement savings account].  We have no retirement fund.  We have nothing after 9/11."

Lower Manhattan promises to overcome the aftermath of 9/11 with more vitality than ever before.  But Stephanie Hryckowian is unemployed and still struggling to cope with the devastation of bin Laden’s attacks.

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