Visually, of course, Ground Zero and Lower Manhattan have changed tremendously since Sept. 11, 2001. Not only was the entire 16-acre site in ruins but adjoining buildings were damaged by flying steel beams and debris from the collapsing towers. One piece of steel sailed across the street and plunged through the roof of the Winder Garden in the World Financial Center, killing two trees.

In the days following the attack, Lower Manhattan was locked down, with police barricades on the side streets and police officers checking company IDs. Many stores south of Canal Street were closed, some, like Burlington Coat Factory, never to reopen. Lower Broadway was like a ghost town; store front windows were covered in white ash and dust. Satellite dishes were everywhere on the streets. Verizon provided free phone carts on the sidewalks as many buildings had little if any phone service. It was a mess.
Large trucks carried debris endlessly from the wrecked site along West Broadway, which required resurfacing twice, if memory serves, during this period. They worked quickly. In six months, film crews were once again filming in Lower Manhattan. And you know New York is back when they make movies here.

As the Mayor noted on the ten year anniversary of the attack, the district has grown since the attack. Twice as many people live here than a decade ago, and Lower Manhattan is much more of a 7/24 neighborhood than before. WTC 1, aka Freedom Tower is 80 stories tall and growing day-by-day. The National September 11 Memorial opened to rave reviews on the tenth anniversary, and the accompanying museum will open next year. Finally we have got to this point after years of wrangling between the stakeholders in New York and New Jersey.

We have not been attacked in ten years, thanks in part to excellent police work and some luck. You can follow the progress at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation web site.

“Reflecting Absence,” Michael Arad’s winning design for the memorial was the best, in my view, for its simplicity and symbolism, being the footprints of the twin missing towers, a little more than 200 feet on a side, and with running water and names of the victims inscribed in bronze. Memorial Plaza is populated with 300 oak trees on eight acres of the World Trade Center site, an adequate amount of space though not what many of us wanted: the entire site dedicated to the memorial and museum. I’ll have more to say about that in another piece.

So, much has changed. Still, we live under a state of siege ten year after the attack. Nothing reminds new Yorkers more of that then the alert of possible attack on the anniversary itself. Once again, police took to the streets in full battle gear, with helmets and automatic weapons at the ready. Like they say, if you see something, say something.

By Hudson Owen. All Rights Reserved.