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What a decade it has been since 9/11/2001 — a devastation and a decade that have totally transformed our neighborhoods.
In reviewing the coverage in the Downtown Express and The Villager of the past ten years of 9/11 itself and its still ongoing reverberations, it struck us that the story is in the headlines. In short, it’s more than a thousand stories detailing Downtown New York’s continuing struggles with the pain, horror, and dislocation of 9/11; the enormous efforts to get people back into their homes and businesses; and the sheer pulling ourselves together that give an overwhelming American and New York response to terror: You cannot break us, we will only come back stronger.
This Commemorative Issue is laid out chronologically and scrolls the headlines of our coverage, year by year, interspersed with photographs from the decade.
Those who live and work downtown, and even some who don’t, will well remember the nerve-wracking dramas of our children being transported to welcoming schools outside the district; of parents demanding environmental and pollution analysis to see if they can get their kids back into their own schools; of businesses trying to open their doors to see if they still had any customers; and of the leaders of our nation, state, and city formulating (and re-formulating) a massive resolve to rebuild Downtown, and the World Trade Center site itself.
The W.T.C. rebuilding process, at the end of day, is one of the most remarkable and democratic building experiments ever put in play — a vast plebiscite on who we are as a people and how we can come together for a common purpose and actually get not just something done but, God willing, something extraordinary done.
It is pretty clear from the scrolling of the last decade’s stories that our community’s ten-year response to tragedy and rebuilding was not easy. It was done in fits and starts, it had huge delays, there was sometimes great political and civic vision, and sometimes great political discontinuity and failures of vision. Some of our political institutions operated dynamically and transparently, others less so.
What comes through in the end is something of the essence and strength of a healthy urban democratic process. Citizens and civic groups mobilized impressively to rebuild a community. Leaders emerged who listened, planned, and implemented a vast development process that deepened the area’s residential presence and diversified its commercial make-up. The resulting mixed-use neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan are much more stable than pre-9/11, more able to weather economic challenges and other dislocations.
And what has resulted is a better, healthier, and stronger Downtown, one that has doubled its population since 9/11/2001 and is today among the most livable and dynamic neighborhoods in the entire city. Downtown is clearly back, and stronger. It is a story we can all be deeply proud of.
— John W. Sutter