Scenes from the 9/11 memorial in New York City

Nine years later, the pain and sadness are still in the air. Stopping by Zucotti Park to commemorate the tragedy and listen to the names of the victims being recalled out loud, each with a story, it’s enough to make your heart break. Dignitaries, strangers, heroes of 9/11, and the affected families quietly listen to the litany of names and ponder how this great city lost its innocence, how it suddenly came to feel vulnerable as never before, yet not defeated or broken.

A city and a country that once firmly believed in the values and principles that made them great and the envy of so many has in recent times fallen prey to fear and anxiety. The thwarted attack of the Times Square bomber, the controversy on Park street about the Islamic community center that’s come to be known as the Ground Zero Mosque, and the media hysteria over a lunatic fringe pastor promising to burn copies of the Quran have only revived the pain felt on 9/11.

This year was not just about remembering—there was a tension mixed in with the recollection. A heated street corner debate between two Muslims about the meaning of the Quran and a a demonstration in favour of the Ground Zero Mosque are vivid reminders that the wounds have not healed. Fortunately, the thousands of people quietly walking around Ground Zero and dropping in on St.Paul’s Chapel at Vesley and Broadway to recall how this quaint little church was a refuge on 9-11 served as a welcome contrast.

Three of my New York friends shared their memories of that fateful day with me. One recalled being trapped in the first tower and being ushered down 45 flights to safety and survival, only to find out the second tower was hit and bodies were flying down to the ground to avoid the flames. A second friend still relives the day when she was within walking distance from the site when the first plane hit the tower. A third friend was further away, but recalled the mood after the towers hit the ground and how America had now become vulnerable to terror and New York was no longer safe.

As Canadians, we can remember how our country was transformed into a large landing strip, as planes were no longer authorized to land on American soil after the incidents in New York, at the Pentagon building in D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania. That day all countries who believed in humanity and the sanctity of life were one with America.

The debates that have come up during this electoral season show that American democracy can be messy at times. Hopefully, once the elections are over, the political climate surrounding 9/11 will change and put matters in a more balanced perspective. Next year, the memorial pool will be inaugurated at Ground Zero to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the attacks, and the hole at Ground Zero is slowly being transformed by American ingenuity. What remains inspiring in all this is how the resilience and the hope that is so much a part of the American spirit remains very much a part of New York City. On this weekend, it is good to remember this.

[John Parisella is currently serving as Quebec's Delegate-General in New York City.]




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Scenes from the 9/11 memorial in New York City

  1. Nicely said.

    Hopefully, once the elections are over, the political climate surrounding 9/11 will change and put matters in a more balanced perspective.

    That may well not happen, precisely because, as you say, democracy can be messy. Still beats anything else we've come up with, though.

  2. "A city and a country that once firmly believed in the values and principles that made them great and the envy of so many has in recent times fallen prey to fear and anxiety."

    A 100 million dollar mosque being built within less than 120 metres from the closest human remains of the 9/11 victims and 380 metres from the furthest human remains of those same 9/11 victims rightfully causes moral outrage.

    What causes "fear and anxiety" is an administration which no longer takes the challenge of radical islamic extremists and the lessons of 9/11 seriously.

    The mid-terms will no doubt correct this by cutting off the democrats at the knees and hopefully causing sensible democrats to talk some sense to this president before his leadership takes the dems to further electoral oblivion.

    • No longer takes radical Islamic extremists or the lessons of 9/11 seriously? I don't know if you heard, but the US has an extra 40 000 troops in Afghanistan this year. Just so ya know.

      • Yeah, but he wants them out by the middle of next year, in case you didn't know.

        That's why Harper's right to bring our troops back. Obama doesn't beleive in this war so there's no use sticking around. Iggy wants to stay around but he's obviously out of the loop with what's happening in Washington these days.

  3. If anyone cares to read an amazingly insighful article on Barack Obama – I consider it a MUST READ – please go to a Forbes magazine article by Dinesh D'Souza which came out last Thursday and is online entitled "How Obama Thinks".

    It is both compelling and chilling.

    As I said it's posted over at Forbes magazine or you can google "how obama thinks. I've read a ton on Obama but never something that really explains the man and his modus operandi like this article does.

    • Dinesh D'Souza is a delusional nutjob– read him if you want an insight into the psychosis of today's GOP.

      • Derek, Obama is finished politically. The only question is whether the Dems or the American electorate takes him out. I'm betting the Dems will finish him off first by virtue of something called self-preservation. The Democratic Party has pulled some lulus but even they recognize an extremist when they see one. They need to take the party back from this "delusional nutjob". Because that's what Obama is.

    • I guess Newt Gingrich liked the article as well:

      "Gingrich says that D'Souza has made a “stunning insight” into Obama's behavior — the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”"

      • Who is D'souza?Gingrich is no reference ,Jarrid. He is arrogant ,silly and a has -been . He is going nowhere ,totally unelectable .So give us something better if you want to be credible.

    • Dinesh freakin' D'Souza?

      He's been a conservative mouthpiece forever. I would not expect anything but an anti-Obama screed from him.

  4. This is a little rich, even on as sombre an occasion on the ninth anniversary of the world trade centre attack. New York had innocence to lose before Sept. 2001? Come on!

    Sadly, since that day, episodes like the invasion of Iraq and the mosque controversy shows just how easy it is for our neighbours to the south to have their "crazy buttons" pushed. Let us hope that country's enemies do not become even better at exploiting this shortcoming.

  5. Americans are keen on starting wars and invading other countries, so I have no sympathy for them when they get hit back.

    The Nov elections won't change anything, as the US is always having elections of one sort or another.

    There was a mosque on the 17th floor of the WTC, and about 5 dozen Muslins in the towers at the time. THAT was genuinely ground zero.

    • Emily, you are way way over the top here. Your posts usually aren't very edifying, but this one beats all and tells all about your silliness.

  6. Yes, the wounds caused by the 9/11 attack have not healed. The 9/11 commemoration has even gotten worst due to the spread of Islamophobia and the growing hatred against Muslims. This will only result to more violence and terrorist activities. After nine years, the hatred and fear are still there. I'm not also optimistic about the coming elections. It might even worsen things up.

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