It’s magnificent and enormous, the 16-acre site where nearly three thousand innocent victims were murdered. My eyes are drawn to the sky where the towers used to be. I’ve never seen them, but the iconic symbols of American capitalism have been enshrined in my head through movies such as Wall Street, Crocodile Dundee, and Miracle on 34th Street. Sunday the city will illuminate the sky with 88 lights shining two perfect beams into the sky, filling the eerie void where the towers once stood. We need to get to an elevated position to see the site in its true likeness.
I’m not sure what I’m feeling. There are hundreds of people down here. I wonder who is a tourist, a New York City firefighter, or perhaps a survivor with a story. The people of New York have, for the most part, been taking all the extra tourists and media attention in stride. After all, it is New York! A few New Yorkers that I have spoken to have told me they cannot believe ten years have passed.
Last night at Brother meeting Brothers, we were witness to a very moving, impromptu 10-piece drum and bagpipe performance from the FDNY Emerald Society. This performance was amazing, and left a crowd of a hundred on their feet in admiration. We met firefighters from the UK, San Diego, Chicago, LA, Memphis, and Texas, all here for one purpose: to pay respects to a job, and a department that lost so much. I toasted with a marine and a sailor from the USS New York, and it was my privilege to shake the hand of a Special Ops Navy Seal from team 6, the very team that hunted down Osama bin Laden.
While I have been here less than 24 hours, it is obvious the city is on high alert. There are pockets of NYPD members on every corner, it seems. We spoke with many of them and offered our condolences on the 23 members they lost at 9/11. The police are randomly stopping people for checks and we have been stopped as well. There is feeling of pride in this city this weekend – I do not see fear or worry in the eyes of the average New Yorker. I wonder if the increased presence blends in, becomes second nature. The sight of SWAT officers with automatic weapons does not even turn a head.
The front page of the New York Times reads: "On Guard for Anniversary." I think of the knowledge we have gained in ten years and I know my life has changed. How did your life change, besides increased airport security and your citizen’s diploma in all things al-Qaida, Islam, terrorism, and the Qur'an? I know where Kabul and Kandahar are on a map, and I feel I have to be safer when travelling with my family in other countries. Have we been made to feel afraid with continuous coverage of all things terrorism? I’m not sure if these questions can be answered, but I know that for this trip, I feel safer with the increased security presence.