Showing signs of strength In the days following 9/11, scores of New Yorkers gathered along the West Side Highway holding up these and other signs to thank the first-responder firefighters from Tribeca’s Ladder Company 8, nicknamed the “Ghostbusters” firehouse; and the Financial District’s Engine Company 6. Some of them were Red Cross volunteers, who walked around Lower Manhattan handing out food and water to police officers and trying to boost morale. The volunteers began at Union Square, worked their way down to St. Vincent’s Hospital, walked next to the highway, crossed Canal Street, and headed up 6th avenue to Washington Square Park. Six firefighters from Ladder Company 8, including Lieutenant Vincent Halloran, climbed the stairs of the burning North Tower that morning in attempt to safely evacuate as many people as possible. Halloran never made it out alive.
For community newspapers, early September typically means lots of feature stories about kids returning to school and the agendas of local officials returning from vacation. But the events of Sept.11, 2001 changed that. And not just for community papers in Lower Manhattan, or even in New York.
There were community papers all over the country that were forced to use their front pages to tell stories of the kid who grew up on Main Street, who worked his way through college, and subsequently landed a job in the financial capital of the world. The stories, however, usually contained a question as to whether that kid was still alive.
A bird’s eye view of Ground Zero
An aerial photo of Ground Zero days after the attacks shows the mounds of rubble that had to be cleared.
Our local news took on new urgency. Readers in our Lower Manhattan disaster zone desperately needed information on which schools were open and shuttered, what firehouses had lost entire companies, what environmental testing showed about the quality of the air, when Battery Park City could be reoccupied. What was the response of our elected leaders and the Community Board? What programs were emerging to help residents get back into their homes and businesses to reopen their doors? The news was moving so quickly and the need so great for up-to-date local information that in October 2001, the Downtown Express decided to go from bi-weekly publication to weekly publication.
The Headlines of 2001 tell the story:
Two jets, two hours – then Twin Towers are gone • Primaries delayed, relief is main concern • Into the rubble, September 13, midnight to 4 a.m. • Local fire houses hit hard; entire companies lost • Thousands lack power • With songs and candles, thousands attend vigil in the Village • Schools and universities open doors to relief effort • Thousands are drawn Downtown to mourn, gawk, be a part • Students are relocated from W.T.C. disaster area • Primaries to be held Sept. 25 • Battery Park City Authority pushes to reopen buildings • After devastation, residents try to rebuild lives • N.Y.U. evacuates seven dorms • Stranded pets are saved from the evacuated buildings • Ninth Precinct defuses angry protest at East Village mosque • New sites for Downtown voters • Seawall okay • Seamen’s Church helping out • Local firefighters recall their friends and the horror • Three injured, no deaths at the First Precinct • Weisbrod: Lower Manhattan is ready to rebuild • World Financial Center could begin rebuilding in a month • Most of Battery Park reopens • Tribeca businesses band together for relief • Lower Manhattan restaurants begin to regroup • 700 rush, or rushed to Downtown Hospital on Sept. 11 • B.M.C.C. helping rescue workers and preparing to reopen • A desperate search for loved ones at the armory • No business at the Seaport • Parents need answers on the opening of P.S. 234 and P.S./I.S. 89 • A five-block run to safety for teens and moms • Wagner Park reopens • Disaster poetry reading • Residents and businesses frustrated over access issue • Pace University remembers • Gateway Plaza tenants make demands on Lefrak • Downtown parents worry about school space and air • Soldiers draw on the spirit of P.S.•I.S. 89 • Soccer provides a relaxing escape for children • Small businesses band together to survive • Officials say ‘stuffy air’ may be causing headaches at Stuy • B.P.C. Authority, residents coping after Sept. 11 • Nadler warns of nuclear and other dangers • B.P.C. nursery struggles with reduced enrollment • Waiting to reach out and touch someone at Southbridge • Jerry, Bill and Hillary come out to support Tribeca • Park construction resumes despite delays on Pier 40 • P.S. 89 moves and East Side program is forced out • P.S. 234 parents debate returning • Some homeless were also displaced Sept. 11 • Clinton and Silver say thanks to Downtown Hospital • Police look to shrink ‘frozen zone’ and wall it off • Downtown water main project resumes • Utah town pitches in • Construction equipment stolen • What to build downtown? Planners and Architects debate what to build downtown • Fundraiser for local fire and police stations • Board hopes to revive park plan • Downtown lobbying trip produces mixed results • Ballfield construction still on track, B.P.C.A. says • Pataki announce $25 million grants • Enrollment down at P.S. 89 and preschools • City turns P.S./I.S. 89 back to the Board of Ed • C.B. 1 sets conditions for school reopenings • Not everyone wants to rebuild the financial center • Trinity Church reopens • Some Burial Ground artifacts rediscovered in W.T.C. • Air quality news: so far, so good • Checkpoint hassles continue for cars • Lice? What about anthrax, smallpox and asbestos? • Crowds return in smaller numbers to this year’s parade • Senate approves $5 billion stimulus for New York • Struggling to make it south of ‘ground zero’ • Businesses go to ‘one-stop shopping’ event for help • Con Ed to dig 5 miles of streets in 6 months • Air quality in Stuyvesant may be getting worse • Cleaning begins at Trinity Pl. High School • Tenant fights and rent strikes continue in B.P.C. • Restore the streets which the W.T.C. replaced, says C.B. 1 • Web surfers moved by essay • Businesses should publicize discounts • Veterans Plaza rededicates on two-month anniversary • Checkhov Now means even more • Market to move to Battery Pl. • Searching for volunteer searchers • Board of Ed pushing to reopen P.S. 234 in January • Panel calls for one agency to monitor air quality • Fraunces restaurant, the first George W.’s hangout, reopens • Gateway leaders recommend deal with Lefrak • No plan to reopen B.P.C. movie theater • Planners agree ferries can help save Downtown • Stuyvesant air is not getting worse • Rebuild as high as Twin Towers • Park construction continues in the Village… Tribeca work near Hudson is still years away • Madelyn takes on Rudy • Durst: Downtown needs more residents • Borders hopes to come back • California students help P.S. 234 • Wils says Giuliani is ignoring Downtown residents • P.S./I.S. 89 parents mull their return • P.S. 234 to vote on return • Small businesses begin to collect grants • B.P.C.A. hoping for pedestrian bridge • Washington Market Park expansion delayed • B.P.C. nursery open house • Will the W.T.C. barge stay near Harrison Street? • Spare space for Borders? • Parents, officials debate when to open P.S. 234 • 40,000 books cleaner, library reopens to the public • Pataki and Giuliani pick team to rebuild Downtown • Officials discuss Downtown section of subway • Buddhist painting to protect Downtown • Trying to bring fun and business back to Wall St. • Some local leaders call for moving W.T.C. barge north • Time to organize children’s return to neighborhood schools • Reclaim P.S. 234 in Jan. • Trade Center artist regroups with his comrades • L.M.C.C. presents its World Views at New Museum • Greenwich St. block reopens • $100,000 for B.P.C. Nursery • SoHo was anti-Taliban pre-Sept. 11 • Silverstein says put Route 9A underground • Artist donates painting to fire museum • Gerson leads tour of W.T.C. and its greater area • B.P.C.A. and residents clash over proposed bridge • Board, parents close to Feb. 1 deal at P.S. 234 • Tribecans buying Christmas trees earlier • Onward Christian cleaners; Baptists complete work • A Feb. return to P.S. 234 • Parents say: Move the barge • Barge fight continues • Freed thanks restauranteurs • P.S. 234 conditions for return • Residents begin fight for temporary rec space • Giuliani and students remember victims and celebrate park’s renovation • Angling to please, B.P.C.A. proposes new design • Liberty, Ellis ferries open later this week • Trust resurfacing Chelsea field for Downtown children • Barge raises questions as children return to school • A life spent with the W.T.C. • Leaders look to improve Downtown transportation • Pitching in to help Downtown businesses • City Hall Park still closed 14 weeks later • City to leave B.P.C. in spring? • P.S. 89 fearful, I.S. 89 anxious to return • I.S. 89 may open Jan. 22 • Residents protest against W.T.C. debris barge • City grants for non-profit and non-retail businesses • No plans to reopen City Hall Park • Children’s programs return to New Amsterdam Library
Bush visits Downtown as residents search for answers
A few days before ordering an attack on Afghanistan, President Bush paid a visit to Downtown. He made a stop at P.S. 130 in Chinatown and spoke to Lower Manhattan business leaders at Federal Hall on Oct. 3. While at P.S. 130, he told the students they were “lucky to have heroes” in their classrooms, referring to the faculty that safely evacuated the school, located on Baxter Street, on the day of the attacks.
Bush also accompanied Gov. Pataki and Mayor Guiliani to Engine Company 55, which at the time was missing four firefighters. Lt. Jimmy Schade said Bush’s visit raised the spirits of the company.