Opinion: A fitting tribute

By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders

Last weekend, my wife and I hosted friends of ours from the great state of Michigan who were visiting New York City. Of course they wanted to see all the sites of interest in Manhattan. We did that and we also saw some wonderful shows on Broadway, including “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Ain’t Too Proud,” which is a wonderful musical about the life and times of that great Motown singing group known as The Temptations. I recommend both shows.

But as we approach the 18th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, my friends wanted to go downtown to “Ground Zero” and see the area which for many New Yorkers, and Americans everywhere, has become sacred ground and a pilgrimage.

It is hard to believe that so many years have now passed since that dreadful day when nearly 3,000 people were killed by the two planes that crashed into the Twin Towers and caused such destruction. Surely it is a moment in time that none of us will ever forget. I was just a few hundred yards away when the planes struck. No New Yorker in particular can ever forget the grief and anger that we all felt as our city was attacked.

I found myself reliving the whole experience as I walked my friends from the Brooklyn Bridge subway stop across City Hall Park to Broadway and then along Church Street to the site. Retracing the very path that I travelled that morning on 9/11.

However, for whatever reason, I have not been back since the rebuilding was completed with the magnificent Freedom Tower as well as other new buildings. The grounds have been dedicated in the most tasteful way to honor the past as well as to look towards the future. There are two large pits preserved where the foundations of the mighty One and Two World Center once stood, each with a gentle waterfall flowing into the empty cavity surrounded by the names of the dead from that day. The acres of esplanade which encompass the site has been made somber but also quite inviting for the tourists and others who come to see and to contemplate.

But the 9/11 Museum recently completed is something very special. Once inside you will find artifacts, films, recordings, news reels, information and actual parts of the buildings remains. Faces of the dead are honored. Majestic praise is given to the first responders who courageously rushed into the burning buildings to try to save lives but sacrificed their own. The time in the museum is a journey to the past from the original construction of the World Trade Center to the events of the day of its destruction. Your walk through the museum requires about three hours. There is so much to view, so much history preserved and so many emotions to sort through.

It was hard for me to see all that again. I am sure that other New Yorkers would feel the same way. My friends from Michigan were equally moved. We also witnessed thousands of other people many clearly visitors from other counties in tears at the images and sights from that day.

I cannot say that the experience is uplifting. In fact, it is profoundly sad and poignant. But it is important and necessary. For what it does is to connect all decent people no matter the nationality or background in a common bond. And for that brief moment we are all part of one human community with the same aspiration that the events of 9/11 are not forgotten and never suffered again. We owe that to the fallen from the past and the future generations to come.

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