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Three Years of Rebuilding

by Joshua Brustein, Sep 06, 2004
 

ThreeYearsofRebuilding

The day after his speech at the Republican National Convention, which was largely about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was questioned by a group of delegates from Iowa, who asked whether New Yorkers have been able to recover from 9/11 as quickly as the rest of the nation.

New Yorkers, being closer to the events, are supposed to be more emotional about the attack, Giuliani reportedly replied, and people outside the city are supposed to feel it less. "But," Giuliani said, "I've found in traveling that it's maybe just the opposite."

And indeed, the delegates who streamed to Ground Zero described wrenching visits to the place where their country was attacked. New Yorkers, on the other hand, had a more complicated set of reactions. Some looked at all the attention given to 9/11 at the convention (Giuliani's speech was only one of several to focus on it), and expressed outrage at what they saw as the exploitation of their city's tragedy for partisan advantage.

Others simply are in a different place than the out-of-towners who have not had to live close by for the past three years. "People who weren't here, it's a big deal in a different way to them than for people who were here on that day," said Maryhope Howland, who was evacuated from her apartment in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001. While she, along with many New Yorkers, marked with great solemnity the first anniversary of the attack, she did little to mark the date one year later. She will be spending September 11, 2004 celebrating a friend's wedding. "It's not like 9/11 occurs to me every day, " she said. "But it has changed everything."

The emotional reaction is not all that separates New Yorkers from other Americans. The convention focused 9/11 on issues of national defense. Certainly, with New York remaining the most likely target for terrorism within the United States, New York officials and residents understand strident arguments for tight security. At the same time, though, as the city with the largest and most diverse immigrant population, many of whom have suffered as a result of harsh security measures, the importance of civil liberties also hits close to home. And, as a famously liberal city, many New Yorkers are at the forefront of the protest movement against the war in Iraq.

To the nation at large, 9/11 evoked a response that seems largely concerned with protecting and preventing. New Yorkers since 9/11 have focused on rebuilding, and security is only one issue in the rebuilding effort. A half dozen questions have faced New Yorkers over the past three years, questions that have yet to be fully answered:

    1. Ground Zero
      What will Ground Zero look like when it is completely built up?
      The major architectural elements for Ground Zero have been designed, but funding issues threaten the redevelopment, which is not scheduled to be completed until 2015.

    2. Transportation
      How did the attack transform transportation to and around lower Manhattan?
      Public transportation to lower Manhattan has been repaired, and major plans to improve it are underway, though debate continues over additional projects.

    3. Economic Impact
      Has New York's economy really recovered from 9/11?
      The city has pulled out of a two-and-a-half year recession, but full recovery is uncertain.

    4. Federal Aid
      Will the enormous federal aid package ever reach the city?
      Over half of the $20 billion pledged to New York has arrived, but the city will not receive the entire amount promised to it for at least five years, if at all.

    5. Security
      Is New York, and the country as a whole, capable of preventing and responding to future terrorist attacks?
      Facing criticism of its capabilities and a shortfall in funding, the city continues to prepare itself to prevent and respond to future terrorist attacks.

    6. Health and Environment
      What are the long-term environmental and health effects that will come as the result of the collapse of the Twin Towers?
      Scientists dispute what will happen in the future, while it has become clear that the Environmental Protection Agency performed badly in the days after the attacks.

Next Page: Ground Zero


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