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BY ALINE REYNOLDS | The anniversary of 9/11 has taken on a whole new meaning for me since I joined the Downtown Express a little over a year ago.
Like many Americans, I have a flashbulb memory of exactly where I was on Sept. 11, 2001. I was in the 10th grade at Wheatley High School, sitting in Spanish class, when our teacher got word that something had happened at the World Trade Center. I of course knew about the Twin Towers, having grown up only 40 minutes away from the city in Nassau County. I remember seeing them rise above the horizon as my family and I would drive into the city via the Long Island Expressway to go to a Broadway show or to have dinner at Top of the Sixes.
But, other than being a native New Yorker, I never had a profound connection to 9/11 as a teenager. I didn’t personally know anyone that died that day, nor do I have a vivid recollection of my childhood visit to the Windows on the World restaurant.
Never did it cross my mind that, less than 10 years later, I would be a journalist covering the redevelopment of Ground Zero — the heart of the Downtown Express’s coverage area. Only in June 2010, when I began working at the Express, did I begin to grasp the devastating impact the attacks had on Downtown residents, workers and students. Fifteen short months later, I now feel vitally attached to 9/11 and its difficult yet heartening aftermath.
As a community reporter, it has been a true privilege to chronicle Downtown’s post-9/11 rebirth. I have witnessed several milestones since joining the Express last year: the re-allocation of funds for Downtown, the historic passage of the Zadroga Act, the construction of the 9/11 Memorial plaza, the rapid growth of W.T.C. One, the completion of the Gehry Tower, the death of Osama Bin Laden, and the continuing surge in the area’s population boom — just to name a few. I have gone on eye-opening tours of Seven World Trade Center, Ground Zero, and a nursery in New Jersey, where the trees that will dot the 9/11 Memorial grew and were groomed prior to their delivery to the site. I have had the honor of interviewing eminent individuals involved in these developments — Larry Silverstein, Daniel Libeskind, Sheldon Silver, John Feal, Carolyn Maloney, and many others.
I feel especially fortunate to be covering what are essentially national stories, but on the most local level. Most of all, I admire the perseverance and resilience of the Downtown community.
These achievements couldn’t have taken place without the hard work and determination of my most loyal sources — the Downtown residents themselves, who have managed to cope with deaths of loved ones, illness, traffic congestion, construction noise and other post-9/11 challenges. Their unwavering commitment to rebuilding their beloved neighborhood has been inspirational.