NEW YORK — At 8:32 a.m. Wednesday morning, on the first day that the National September 11 Memorial Museum opened to the public, 26 uniformed police officers and firefighters marched onto the lawn of the memorial and unfurled an American flag that had flown at 90 West Street, adjacent to Ground Zero, for weeks after the attacks. Civilians involved in the restoration of the flag and children from the 9/12 Generation Project filled in among the honor guard designated to see the National 9/11 Flag safely back to Ground Zero. Grasping the edges, they raised the 36-foot by 26-foot flag as the Fire Department of New York’s Emerald Society Pipes and Drums Band played. “Kids, kids, today is a very important day. We’re here to remember, pay tribute, and learn about what happened on 9/11. But we’re also here to remember, pay tribute, and to learn about what happened on 9/12,” said Jeff Parness, founder and chairman of New York Says Thank You Foundation. “People from all around the world came here to help us in our time of need.” Torn and damaged by smoke and debris, the flag was removed in October 2001, and for the next seven years it lay in storage in Pennsylvania.
The people who talk the most about 9/11 and how we came together as a nation and international community didn’t live here. New York City is it’s own world, it’s an American City but an international metropolis. It is a city mired in extremes of duality and 9/11 is the perfect example. I was here on 9/11 taking the 2 train to downtown Brooklyn to go to my university. Trains stopped working an from on the hill on Eastern Parkways I could see like may other the smoke coming from the towers. That day I saw a lot of raw emotions and panic. The next day 9/13 there was an outpouring of emotion. 9/13 there were attacks on random Muslims. A friend of mine got her hijab ripped off and was spit on.
That’s the NYC I know. Living in NYC, for me is like battling Cervantes windmills. At any moment the City may swing it’s ponderous arms and bury you deep into the mire. Or that same arm can raise you to the heights of passion, fraternity, love etc. NYC is at one time a symbol and a real city. Actually NYC is the example of hyper-reality.
The the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges’ in his “On Exactitude in Science” has the example of a society whose cartographers create a map so detailed that it covers the very things it was designed to represent. When the empire declines, the map fades into the landscape and there is neither the representation nor the real remaining – just the hyper-real. Luckily I know this city really well and can navigate through the many layers of reality.
I was scared the days after 9/11, you couldn’t voice anything critical of the government. If you discussed our policy in Afghanistan during the cold war which in the long run helped create this situation, you would be slammed. Somehow it was un-American to sift through the debris of our failed foreign policy to see what events lead to this event. Basically, all this talk about freedom of speech and all these great benefits are privileges dependent on the predominating social and political climes.
How can we pay tribute to the people who died here, if we continue with our exploitative foreign policies, or our prison abuse scandals in Abu Ghraib, our drone army. Even if we don’t consider all these things, how about what we treat minorities. Many people selflessly gave their lives to helps those trapped or trying to escape from the towers.