On the morning of September 11th 2001, my friend Anthony sat in the cafeteria of the World Trade Center while I soaked up the sun on a beach in Bradenton, Florida. He was enjoying a cup of coffee with a co-worker when something shook the entire building. Neither of them knew what happened but they could see. They could see flaming chunks of debris falling down past the nearly floor to ceiling windows, seemingly falling out of the sky. Anthony described some of the debris as being “the size of Volkswagen’s.” He started yelling at everyone to get away from the windows because he had this terrible image of some asteroid-like rock crashing through the glass and like so many of the victims 80 floors up, no one knew what hit them. It was surreal, terrifying.”
New York is sort of like the center of the Universe. If it’s out there, it’s likely in New York. In Brooklyn, one of New York’s five Boroughs (in and of itself the fourth largest City in the world) you can walk from one end of the borough to the other end of the borough and get a feel for walking around the planet. In Brighton Beach, bordering Coney Island, most of the marquee names on storefronts are written in Russian. Newspapers from Moscow and Leningrad share display stands with New York Dailies. Brighton Beach is commonly known Little Odessa and this is not unique in Brooklyn.
Atlantic Avenue marks another Brooklyn spot lined with shops whose names are in Farsi reflecting a neighborhood bustling with natives of mid-east Arabic Nations. On the West end of Brooklyn sits Bensonhurst, a predominantly Italian neighborhood with Italian food second to none. It stretches to the borders of Borough Park dominated by the East European Jews dressed in traditional black coats with the long curly side burns. There are Irish neighborhoods and African American neighborhoods, Hispanic and Asian neighborhoods. You can go into any neighborhood and marvel at the language spoken, even feel like a stranger in a foreign land when standing in a store filled with people speaking in native tongue. “Can I help you?” They ask and never forget to say “Thank you.”
On the morning of September 11th, 2001 before the second plane hit, my friend Anthony looked at his friend and said, “we have to get out of here!” They fled, racing down stairs with so many other people from so many different parts of the world, into the street still oblivious of what was really happening, aching only to get home to their loved ones. Anthony lived in Staten Island at the time. He raced and caught the last Ferry home. “The Ferry pulled out and you could see this black cloud racing from lower Manhattan. It’s like it was chasing the boat. One minute it is a beautiful sunlit day and the next the whole boat is engulfed in blackness. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face and then it was gone. It was daylight again and you looked around at all the people you couldn’t see for what seemed like an eternity and so many just burst into tears.”
By the morning of September 12th, every corner of this Country was just another neighborhood, another borough, in the City of New York. Firefighter stood at crossroads, boots in hand, collecting funds for the victims of the worst attack since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. We were – for at least a few weeks truly “One Nation, Under God, Indivisible with Liberty and Justice For All.” It didn’t; however, last as perpetuators of conspiracy theories took to the airwaves with their accusations of government plots designed to take away our Liberty.
On April 15th 2013, bombs explode in Boston taking eight-year old Martin Richard, Medford resident Kyrstle Campbell and Chinese native Lingzi Lu in another act of terrorism; and we are a Nation united again with the City of Boston; a City every bit as exuberant and diverse as New York. This time, however, the dust barely settles and already popular radio hosts such as Alex Jones and Glenn Beck fan the fires of millions of followers promising to prove the Boston Bombing was in fact a Government plot designed to take away our Liberties. Terrorism comes in many shapes and forms, be they Muslims from Afghanistan, Russians from Chechnya, bombers from Lockport, New York – the birthplace of Timothy McVeigh, or talking heads from Austin Texas and Everett, Washington. They all share one thing in common: a desire to undermine and destroy the foundation of our forefathers.