The 9/11 attacks and the resilience of New York

On September 11, 2001, I witnessed the 9/11 terror attacks from a high-rise building in the Washington Heights neighborhood of northern Manhattan.

‘Raising the Flag at Ground Zero’ is a photograph by Thomas E. Franklin of ‘The Record’ taken on September 11, 2001. The picture shows three New York City firefighters raising the US flag at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks (photo credit: THOMAS E. FRANKLIN)
‘Raising the Flag at Ground Zero’ is a photograph by Thomas E. Franklin of ‘The Record’ taken on September 11, 2001. The picture shows three New York City firefighters raising the US flag at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks
(photo credit: THOMAS E. FRANKLIN)

I originally moved to New York in August of 2001, and the “financial capital of the world” has been my home ever since.

On September 11, 2001, I witnessed the 9/11 terror attacks from a high-rise building in the Washington Heights neighborhood of northern Manhattan. As soon as I heard that a second plane had hit the South Tower, I rushed up to the top of Belfer Hall of Yeshiva University.

As I stood on the 11th floor of the building, it was both a sad and terrifying site to see a great mass of smoke arise. The smoke had hovered over the city like dark clouds of doom, displaying no sense of mercy or happiness. The reality that an hour earlier there were two tall building structures that stood high and mighty in the New York sunlight was incomprehensible. As I stared at the dark smoke hovering over the city, I was trying to understand how inhuman and destructive some people would be in causing such an evil act.

The word “darkness” is a very powerful term that can be used to describe either the physical or the non-physical realm of this world. The darkness I had witnessed that day before my very own eyes was of the physical kind, but the darkness that led these terrorists to cause such an act is inexplicable. The more I thought about it, the more I realized mankind has the power to control his or her own destiny for the better or for the worse. To think that the World Trade Center was built by people working together to achieve a common goal of building a structure that would represent the greatness of America’s economic strength brought to mind a positive force. But when people get together to destroy and hurt others, then it is an occasion when darkness plays its greatest role in perpetrating evil.

Who could have imagined that a group of cold-blooded people could crash airplanes into a building and cause untold suffering? These terrorists had proved that they would harm America at any cost and that the only limits they knew were technical limits.

Although evil had found its way of destroying part of the city physically, (harming its people at the same time as it caused smoke to arise from the city and debris to scatter over a vast area), the spirit of the city was not destroyed. Seeing people of diverse backgrounds come together and unite in response to this catastrophe brought great hope and fostered aspirations for the nation’s future. Whether it was by donating blood to the victims, donating food to the rescue workers or by just praying for people who were still missing, impressive numbers of Americans from all around the country demonstrated immense reserves of strength and pride in their country by uniting together to defeat the enemy.

Just as the word “darkness” can be used to describe the actions of those who cause wrong, there is a great amount of countervailing “light” that has emanated from the city in response to this great catastrophe. People had (now more than ever) regained a great sense of pride in their country, and the nation lived up to its name as “The United States of America.” Darkness is not just smoke that is seen hovering over a city when something is physically destroyed. Rather, it can be seen as a powerful force that drives someone to do the unthinkable. It’s main intent is to destroy and defeat all those it intends to hurt in every way, shape and form. Little does it know that there is an inextinguishable flame which is man’s spirit, which can never be destroyed and which will live on to defeat the enemy. In the end, the nation as a whole has proven that we are stronger than ever as a people and that no matter how bad it gets, good will always prevail over evil. As a New Yorker who has lived here half my life, I have witnessed many of the defining moments in this great city’s history.

Whether it be the September 11 attacks, the Subprime Financial Crisis of 2007-2009 and now the COVID-19 pandemic, the city has been tested in many different ways but at the same time New York City has shown resilience and always bounces back. It is an honor to be a part of this great city. 

The writer received his undergraduate degree in business cum laude from Yeshiva University and his MBA with double distinction from Long Island University. He is a financial adviser who resides in New York and is involved in Israel-based and Jewish advocacy organizations