A decade after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the pain is not gone. The memories of the slaughter downtown are seared into the mind and will be forever. The lessons for the nation and the policy changes that followed the destruction of the World Trade Center, damage to the Pentagon and downing of a fourth plane over Pennsylvania continue to be learned and debated.
What hasn’t changed is the human condition — the resilient spirit that allows us to overcome even such horrors, the sharing of sorrows among those touched most deeply and the significance seen in anniversaries like this, the 10th.
Queens, which suffered as much as anyplace outside Manhattan — think of the 19 firemen from just one house in Maspeth who went downtown to never return — is loaded with events commemorating the attacks this week.
You who still suffer nightmares about New York’s darkest day, you are not alone. You who still hear footsteps on the stairs of someone who has not walked the Earth for 10 years, you are not alone. You who obsess about every detail of the WTC memorial and rebuilding project, you are not alone. The entire borough stands with you in your grief and welcomes you to share what you feel with your neighbors.
All this week there will be prayer services, policy discussions, candlelight vigils, interfaith dialogues, musical tributes, art exhibits and more across Queens, not to mention the rest of the city. Those in this borough are listed elsewhere in this week’s Queens Chronicle —mostly in the news section, aside from the art shows, which are discussed in qboro, the Arts, Culture & Living section of the paper.
Beyond the personal, the ramifications of the terror attacks still continue to play out in ways that affect nearly every person in the world.
You didn’t see machine gun-toting National Guardsmen in Grand Central Station before, or police Emergency Service units springing out of vans in the Diamond District as a show of force. But for 10 years we’ve seen that and more.
Our armed forces are still fighting in Afghanistan, where the plot was hatched, and, to a lesser degree, in Iraq. Together those conflicts have cost thousands of lives, and the results are debatable at best. There is a nominal democracy in Iraq, still plagued by consistent violence, which may turn out to be an Iranian ally more than an American one. The ruling Taliban in Afghanistan were quickly toppled, but after nearly 10 years we’ve only had to increase our forces there to bring some semblance of civilization and order to a country that has historically been lawless in the Western sense. And our nominal allies in neighboring Pakistan often seem no more advanced, stable or reliable. Elsewhere throughout the world, American forces and spies operate clandestinely — lawlessly, in the minds of many here at home.
The events of Sept. 11 did not just destroy buildings, planes and lives, but tore deeply at the very fabric of our society, maybe more than we knew then, maybe even more than we know now. We must continue not only to fight abroad to prevent a repeat, so far a success, but to fight in another sense at home — to overcome what happened, individually and collectively, to learn from it and to determine where the nation goes next.
That’s more than enough burden for this 10th anniversary. But no matter where you are in this borough, city or nation, it is not one you bear alone.