How do New Yorkers commemorate 9/11? By Nina Gordon

Preserving Lower Manhattan
City memorials and how to remember 9/11
Rebuilding the WTC: BBC report May 2013

People have always given a lot of importance to what we have accomplished over time. Our cultural heritage is a “gift” from past generations: buildings, monuments, movies, books, music, and the rest. The historic dimension of a place is extremely important to us, be it in New York, one of the greatest cities in the world, or elsewhere. Every avenue, crossroads and corner shop has a story, sad or happy, and has significance for the people who use them. And NYC is particularly rich in places, great or humble, that have meaning to its people and also to the rest of us.

9/11 shocked the world and traumatised New Yorkers. Thousands of people went to New York to get a glimpse of Ground Zero. Ground Zero was not just a place but became a symbol of tragedy and also of courage and hope. It is from there that New Yorkers had to rebuild, physically and psychologically, their shattered lives and community.

This tragedy actually increased the sense of community in the City. The terrorists did not succeed!  The need not to forget was felt very quickly. Ground Zero became a memorial, a reminder to ourselves and to future generations of what had happened and of how people reacted with courage and self-sacrifice. Ground Zero became a "cultural heritage" site overnight. Brad Jordan, the chairman of a community group that helps victims' families said : “We felt it was right to shift the balance a bit from the observance of loss to a commemoration of how the community came together to heal.” 

A memorial (statue, monument, etc.), a place of memory ("lieu de mémoire" in French), or a memorial event (be it spectacular or artistic, a one-off or recurrent), are all means to not forget a tragic event, and a means to instil the duty to remember to future generations. Commemoration is a way of trying to come to terms with a tragedy; through commemoration, we are showing that time will not also wipe out the victims, that their deaths were not in vain because they were sacrificed in the fight against evil, which we in the end will win... Commemoration is also a way of making personal suffering less terrible by making it a shared experience.

There are many ways 9/11 has been commemorated and is being remembered. One is the Tribute in Light (cf. the above photo), started soon after the event. It honours those who lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center; searchlights shine through the night before fading away at dawn...

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