Friday, September 9, 2011

New York City Is Rising On 9.11.11

Please note in honor of 9/11 the following blog entry is unrelated to book publishing or marketing:

New York City sees itself as the center of the world, as the biggest city in the most significant nation.  Most of the world would agree with this assessment.  It is a unique place when you consider the wealth, creative talent, celebrities and professional athletes that call this place home.  Broadway, diamond dealers, book publishers, Wall Street, Madison Avenue, cruise ships and elite sports teams all call this place home. Locals and tourists, natives and foreigners, the old and young, every race, color and religion and level of disability and ability are well-represented here.

And we love our skyscrapers.  They stand as testament to our power and success. The taller and bigger the building, the prouder we are. We may complain about the cost of doing business here, of the random violence, of the inconveniences from so many conveniences, but New Yorkers love their city.

NYC, though so different from the rest of the country, is America. It is a self-selected place where those hungry for opportunity search for a break and where the well-heeled reside for their victory lap.  Every place can and should be proud of what it can offer (except for New Jersey) but let’s face it, you can’t beat this place.  I may be blindly NYC-centric, but can you blame me?

I made the mistake of leaving once, thinking greener pastures awaited me in South Florida.  New York is where I belong, and it’s where all of us should live for at least a little while.  The experience is infectious.  Even those who abandoned the city or never stepped in it out of jealousy, fear, or cost, I say it’s not too late to come for a visit.  Let us overcharge you and make you compete for everything. It’ll build character and make any win you achieve seem even bigger.  The platform NYC offers is just amazing.

And so, the reason New York City is so great is also the reason why we were chosen to be attacked on September 11. Make no mistake, New Yorkers suffered more on 9-11 than any other city or state in the country, but the attack was on America.  So we should stand united and determined to rebuild New York and strengthen America as we approach the decade anniversary of the horrific terrorist attacks.

Washington, DC, the political center of the world, was also attacked.  And a plane that went down in Pennsylvania was destined to do even more destruction.  We can’t forget any of those losses either.  But New York will lead our recovery. 

We’re tough, resilient, and gritty. We’re also egotistical and spoiled.  We will keep building memorials and skyscrapers until we’re bigger and better than ever.  Even the aftershocks of a recent earthquake and the damage of Tropical Storm Irene won’t slow us down.  As a sideshow we even built new stadiums for the Yankees, Mets, and Jets-Giants since 9/11.  Our construction workers will never be idle here – they will keep building on every inch of square space and then straight to the clouds.

We are the city epitomized by Donald Trump – the biggest, the best, the brightest, the fastest.  I feel secure walking down the cavernous streets of Manhattan. In a post 9-11 world I have never lived in fear of another attack.  You can’t live that way.  Take precautions but know you can’t stop everything. That’s out of my control.  I don’t want to feel the burden of what could-be and I choose to revel in our city, as is, right now.

But on 9-11-01 I lived in fear; confusion too.  And I mourned the loss of life, the changes to come, and the fact that society would be divided by a single day that still defines us 10 years later.

I miss the World Trade Center.  Though not an attractive pair of buildings, the Twin Towers were impressive.  In the tiny span of a few square blocks you had 220 floors housing some of the richest corporations and wealthiest individuals.  Twelve million square feet of office space was filled by tens of thousands of workers and daily visitors. It was a city unto itself.

On 9.11.01 I couldn’t fully understand the extent terrorism could hurt our nation nor did I anticipate how we’d fight it.  I’m still not sure of the answer to either. A lot of human capital and money has been spent to keep us safe and to avenge these attacks but it only takes one lucky, patient, resourceful and smart terrorist to destroy many more lives and buildings. We haven’t been attacked again, not because we stopped every potential attack, but because for whatever reason, terrorists have not seen a reason or advantage in doing so.

That will likely change at some point and we’ll inevitably see more destruction.  But we have a blueprint to overcome, to rebuild, and to persevere.  We all became New Yorkers on 9-11 and New Yorkers became Americans.

My firm recently promoted a National Geographic book, A Place of Remembrance. It’s the official book of the National September 11 Memorial. It really captures so many emotions and thoughts with its vivid photography and touching words.  In flipping through it I immediately felt the sensations I felt 10 years ago as if it were yesterday.

For a long time after the attacks I would look up and across the skyline trying to remember where the Twin Towers were. It’s a funny thing when you look for something so big and can’t even visualize where it used to stand. I had taken them for granted.  They were a part of my sky for most of my life and now there is just space and emptiness.

I didn’t personally know of anyone who died on 9-11.  My mom worked across the street from the WTC but was one of the last people to catch a subway train home the minute the first tower was hit.  Since then I’ve met people who escaped the WTC and have read many stories of lives lost.  My loss is different. It’s one of knowing that America is not off-limits to attack.  It is one of knowing that your home town could be altered without warning or provocation. It’s one of knowing that death and destruction here would lead to more of the same overseas.

No one won on 9-11 but many lost, and yet, ten years later, I’m so proud to see New York City rising again.  The Freedom Tower will stand 1776 feet in just two short years. Great progress has been made to revitalize the Wall Street area.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are scaling down.  Osama is dead.  The threats remain out there but for today, I can walk the streets without fear and only pride.

As the rest of America goes back to hating New York and stops pitying us, I’ll know that the world is right again.

New York City is rising. Come experience it!

Note: An acquaintance of mine, Adam Mayblum, shares a poignant story of his experience in fleeing the burning WTC on that fateful day. I do caution that his touching, detailed account may move you to tears:

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