It’s nice to be back in the laid-back South where the language is comprehendible, the weather mild (relatively speaking) and the price of lunch always within reason.
Not that the city I visited in late July was all that bad. One expects high prices and dozens of dialects in New York City. It certainly is one of the most interesting places in the world, once your mind acquires some sense of direction, and you’re willing to accept the likelihood that several people may at once and without warning attempt to occupy the same space at the same time.
But the weather – 103 degrees on Friday, with a heat index of 114 – was enough to melt your shoes. This actually happened to a member of our group, although he’s not sure that a wet sidewalk he walked over prior to the rapid decomposition of his soles might have contained something other than water.
In July 2001, I made this same trip to New York for one of the first Cotton Roundtable events. I stayed at the Marriott Hotel at 3 World Trade Center, next to the gleaming Twin Towers. It was roughly two months before the 9-11 terrorist attacks took the towers down.
The act of violence on that Tuesday morning 10 years ago was meant to not only kill Americans and arrest our nation’s financial heartbeat, but also to maim our spirit. The terrorists presumed that democracy and prosperity had made us soft, and that we would surely cut and run from the fight.
As it turned out, they guessed wrong.
The War on Terror began that morning and continues to this day. Within days after the attack, New Yorkers did the only thing they knew how to do. They went to work to insure that financial exchanges would not miss a beat, and that destroyed buildings would be cleared and rebuilt.
One symbol of that determination, the Freedom Tower, is expected to be completed in 2013. Rising from original Trade Center site, it will be the tallest structure in the nation.
As I stood in the Winter Garden area in Downtown New York in July overlooking the ongoing construction of the Freedom Tower and World Trade Center memorials, a New York tour guide talked not about the destruction of 9-11, but what the aftermath told him about his city and his nation.
“We are New Yorkers,” he said. “We are tough and independent. We were humbled after the terrorist attacks, but not because of what the terrorists did to us. We were humbled by the outpouring of love and support that came from people all across America and the world.”
Ironically, ten years later, the man responsible for the attacks, Osama bin Laden, met an inglorious end, defenseless and unprepared for his pursuers, trapped in a cinder block compound topped with barbed wire from which he had no escape. Any protests he might have uttered went unheeded.
I imagine a lot of New Yorkers were too busy to pay the news much mind.