“We have to remember to be able to look ahead” «kleinezeitung.at

Ground Zero is still a construction site, but New York has recovered from the 9/11 shock. But the new facades are brittle because the corona pandemic has left deep rifts in the city.

from our correspondent Julian Heissler from New York | 5.21 a.m., September 9, 2021


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Two skyscrapers are to grow into the sky at Ground Zero © Getty Images

Construction is going on again at Ground Zero. Loud hammering echoes from the shell of the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center over to the memorial for the former south tower of the Word Trade Center. Construction should be completed in 2023, but the redesign of the former location of the twin towers is not yet complete.

At least two skyscrapers are still missing that will someday shape the New York skyline just as the twin towers once did and as the One World Center is already doing, the eight-sided grand tower that has been in the sky towers. But when the work on the next skyscraper will start cannot be foreseen today.

The images are probably the most famous of the 21st century to date. Almost everyone remembers where they were when they heard the incredible news on September 11, 2001.

(c) imago images / PCN Photography (Chris Trotman / DUOMO / PCN via www.imago-images.de)

The World Trade Center in New York, one of the central symbols of capitalism and the free world, has become the target of Islamist attacks.


The precisely planned and executed al-Qaeda terrorist attacks of September 11th – two passenger planes were hijacked and chased into the twin towers one after the other – they collapsed only 20 minutes apart: 2,753 people died.


It was a sunny morning in New York and an afternoon in Europe. The whole world sat in front of the television sets and stared in disbelief at the incomprehensible events.


There were 102 minutes between the hit of the first tower and the collapse of the second. A good one and a half hours during which the feeling of supposed security in the western world shattered.


Another photo that burned itself into the collective memory: Marcy Borders, whose picture went around the world after the devastating attacks on September 11, 2001 in New York, died in 2015 of complications from cancer.


US President George W. Bush wanted to free the nation from its paralysis when he spoke to Congress nine days after the 9/11 attacks: “Our grief has turned into anger and anger into determination.” Even 20 years later, there can be no talk of an end to the international terrorist threat.


Since the attack on the World Trade Center in New York in September 2001, there has also been a long series of bloody attacks in Europe that were carried out by Islamist perpetrators.

(c) imago/UPI Photo (imago stock&people)

In many cases, the Al-Qaeda terrorist network or the Islamic State (IS) jihadist militia claimed responsibility for the attacks.


At the latest, the withdrawal plans of US President Donald Trump and his successor Joe Biden set a dynamic in motion in Afghanistan that led to the Taliban taking power again.

(c) dapd (Marty leather handler)

But the wreckage of the American fateful day was piled up in the Pentagon in Washington, into which one of the planes plowed.


Part of the US Department of Defense collapsed.


Only 60 percent of the victims have now been identified. With ever new technologies and methods, the remaining remains are worked on, a laborious and lengthy process.

(c) AP (Mark Lennihan)

What remains is a tragedy that has not come to an end even after 20 years.

(c) dapd (Stan Honda)

The pictures from New York stuck in the memory – and offered the photographers the most appalling motifs.


According to the Soufan Group think tank, al-Qaeda is “immeasurably stronger” today than it was at the time of the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago.

(c) Getty Images (U.S. Navy)

The network therefore has 30,000 to 40,000 members worldwide with offshoots in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula.


Despite many setbacks, after the US withdrawal, al-Qaeda could now regain its strength and gain new members in Afghanistan.

(c) dapd (Dan Loh)

In New York life had to go on the next day. It took a long time to determine what was going to happen with the scene. The new complex of the World Trade Center is still not completely finished: A high-rise is still under construction.


The memorial at the site of the event is intended to give consolation to the bereaved – in many cases they never found it. It was not the first al Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center. In February 1993, six terrorists detonated a 700 kilo bomb in the underground car park of the north tower: six people died.


The goal had actually been to collapse the north tower and drop it on the south tower. But the explosive power was too low for that. It wasn’t until eight and a half years later that the hated symbol of the western world crumbled to dust – on the second attempt.


Before US President George W. Bush went to sleep, he wrote in his diary: “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century happened today (…) We believe it is Osama bin Laden.”

(c) imago images/ZUMA Wire (imago stock&people)

He is the main mastermind behind the attacks of September 11, 2001: In 2011 he was killed by US special forces during an operation in Pakistan.

(c) EPA_FILE / epa (epa)

There is no doubt: the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks will make the already scarred souls of Americans bleed again.

(c) AP (David Goldman)

The memory becomes intense and painful. But New York not only rose again as a city, it continued to grow.

(c) AP (Mark Lennihan)

Struggle with inheritance

The delay is not entirely inappropriate. After all, two decades after the most devastating attacks in American history, New York is still struggling with its legacy. Here, in the Financial District not far from Wall Street, the disaster is still omnipresent. Posters with pictures of deceased firefighters, police officers and paramedics hang on buildings around Ground Zero. A tribute to the people who ran towards the inferno to help – and who paid with their lives.

9/11 does not let go of the city. And how should it? The attacks hit New York, home to more than eight million people and the center of international trade, culture and high finance, to the marrow. Before the attacks, the metropolis was booming. It had saved the optimism of the 1990s into the 21st century. But then came the shock. Of the 2,977 people who lost their lives to the attacks on September 11, 2001, 2,753 died at the World Trade Center. And it could have been much more if the start of the school year hadn’t ensured that instead of the usual 50,000 people, an estimated 17,400 were only at their workplaces in the Twin Towers when American Airlines flight 11 between 8:46 a.m. crashed into the north tower on the 93rd and 99th floors.
“I will never forget this sight,” says Joan Mastropaolo. At the time, she and her husband Frank lived in an apartment building right next to the World Trade Center. The south tower stood in front of her kitchen window. Just before the attack, Joan had gone to work in Jersey City, across the Hudson River. From the conference room of her office she could see the twin towers directly. “I suddenly heard a loud noise,” she recalls. Then she saw the plane shoot far too low over the river. “And then the building just swallowed it up.” Immediately she called her husband Frank, who was still in the apartment. “I think we were attacked,” she told him.

Joan Mastropaolo in front of a poster of the towers that no longer exist. Photo © Heissler

A hard time followed for the Mastropaolos. After United Flight 175 hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m., the couple lost contact with each other. Only hours later did they find each other again. The collapse of the towers buried her apartment and everything in it under a thick layer of toxic dust, which to this day is blamed for the deaths of hundreds of people who had to inhale the toxic air at Ground Zero. The Mastropaolos did not find permanent residence until months later – in a house just a block away from the World Trade Center. They still live there today. She never let go of the memory of 9/11. Her husband has post-traumatic stress disorder, says Joan. “He can’t stand any loud noises anymore.” She herself keeps looking anxiously at the sky. “When I see a plane flying low, I panic,” she says.

But like this couple, New York has fought its way back to normal despite the wounds. In the years after 9/11, the city recovered emotionally and economically. The New York Central Bank estimated the damage from the attacks at around 36 billion dollars, but the city had already offset the financial shock in 2004. Since the early 2000s, the metropolis has continued to modernize, making it safer and more livable. But New York has now seen again how fragile this facade is.


Last year, the corona pandemic once again pushed the city to its limits – and now Hurricane “Ida” came too. At least 41 people have died in the devastating flash floods in the past few days. That also leaves cracks.

During Corona, the dead had to be stacked in refrigerated trucks at times because the morgues were overcrowded. And unlike after 9/11, when metropolis and country came together, Covid-19 has created new rifts. The virus also has the potential to permanently overshadow memories of the attacks. The 9/11 Tribute Museum is hardly ever used on these days. Few tourists come to the city. An enormous problem for the small private memorial institute that collects the stories of survivors. Without ticket sales, the situation will remain tense.

The museum believes that experiences in dealing with 9/11 could help to process the upheavals of the pandemic together. “We have learned that we have to remember to look hopefully ahead,” said one tour guide. “And we’ve learned that New York is a tough city that can survive anything.”


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