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BY SHELDON SILVER | I have lived in Lower Manhattan my whole life, and it is difficult to put into words my memories of what happened on that terrible day, September 11, 2001.
I stood outside my building, looking up as United Airlines Flight 175 flew into the South Tower. That image is seared into my mind, as is the sensation of feeling the ground shake and smelling the acrid smoke that hung in the air for weeks.
We learned a lot that day and in the weeks and months afterward. One of the most important things I saw, which gave me great pride, was the resolve and the compassion on display among my neighbors. People of all races and backgrounds worked together to care for those who lost loved ones, to donate their time and anything else they had to give, to express their gratitude to rescue workers who acted so heroically in the face of tragedy.
I was unable to get to my office because it is so close to the World Trade Center, so I secured a Winnebago and created a temporary mobile district office, riding around Lower Manhattan distributing breathing masks, bottled water, food, medicine and other essentials. We helped residents communicate with friends and family and helped many of them get home.
One of my neighbors, a Hatzalah volunteer, raced to Ground Zero in an ambulance that had been dedicated to the memory of my parents. He was pulled from his vehicle moments before it was crushed by falling debris.
I continue to be filled with admiration for the way our community banded together and faced disaster with courage and generosity. For those who spent months toiling on the pile to clear the site faster than anyone could have imagined, I remain forever grateful.
I will never forget the sight of the Statue of Liberty standing in the harbor, raising her torch as the smoke swirled around her. This image and the way I witnessed our Lower Manhattan community working together renewed my faith in this great country. I will always hold those memories close to me and they will always serve as a reminder that our greatest strength is the diversity and character of our people.
Today, I continue to be inspired by the way our community has recovered and rebuilt and I continue to be proud that my Lower Manhattan has become one of our city’s greatest places to live, work and raise a family.
Sheldon Silver is the N.Y.S. Assembly Speaker and a resident of Lower Manhattan.