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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED SEPT. 10, 2013 | BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER |I didn’t know what I was doing here,” said Diane Lapson, Independence Plaza resident and Community Board 1 member as she stood near the South Pool of the September 11 Memorial. “I was here for an hour, and I didn’t see anyone I knew!”
It was Sept. 8, designated as Community Evening at the memorial, when members of the Lower Manhattan community were invited to visit. But scarcely had Lapson bemoaned the absence of friends and neighbors than Susan Cole, another C.B. 1 member, showed up and greeted Lapson with a big hug. Soon a clump of Lower Manhattan people were standing around her: Battery Park City residents Tom and Jill Goodkind and Bob Schneck and Cora Fung, C.B. 1 chair, Catherine McVay Hughes, her neighbor, Janet Hoffman, City Councilmember Margaret Chin and Chin’s director of budget and legislation, Yume Kitasei and others.
Lapson said she was “a little teary eyed,” but then began to tell funny 9/11 stories. “A sense of humor in difficult times can be a lifesaver,” she said later.
There was the one about the group of elderly women standing on a street corner on 9/11 somewhere north of the burning towers. A police officer asked them where they wanted to go. “Atlantic City!” they said.
Then there was the one about the dead pigeons causing a health scare in front of Independence Plaza North on Sept. 12, 2001. They ended up in I.P.N.’s management office freezer, waiting for the Department of Health to pick them up for study, only to be discovered six months later when someone was looking for a birthday cake. And the one about the senior women who escaped from Battery Park City in their pajamas and slippers and managed to buy themselves a complete set of clothes and have their hair and nails done during their walk up to 34th Street.
The Downtowners laughed, talked politics and grew reflective. Battery Park City resident Mashi Blech said that she hadn’t visited the memorial since the Community Evening a year ago. “It’s a way to reconnect,” she said.
She said that after 9/11, she was “conflicted” about returning to Battery Park City, but her sons, then aged 10 and 12, were adamant that the family must return. She recalled them saying, “This is our home. We were born here. We will watch them rebuild.”
Hughes, Board 1’s leader, said “Hopefully, next year, there won’t be a Community Evening because the fences will be down” so that people can visit the memorial whenever they want without needing a ticket.
“We made it through another year,” she said. “We’re lucky.”