Ten years ago today, men and women fell from smoking windows like dropped dolls, and the bravest men on the planet trudged up hundreds of stairs to try to save them. Ten years ago, collapsing buildings took those brave men from us and 343 are immortalized in our hearts and acknowledged on firehouse walls and in memorials for acts beyond compare. Ten years, ago, we realized that the sort of violence that happens elsewhere, in wars from other times, could happen here. Ten years ago, we changed.
Ten years later and we still ache. There’s still a hole in our skyline, and in our hearts. Ten years later, and we still fight in the land where that evil spilled from. Ten years later, the fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters who perished in those blasts still don’t come home. Ten years later, and it’s still there, looming.
We faced an attack the likes of which had never touched us. We reeled back, and we struck back. We banded together and felt a strong bond as a nation. It’s hard to remember now in partisan times how close we were in those days after the strike, flags waving, volunteers lined up at Ground Zero. We stood here, right here, saw the smoke, and the missing buildings and we changed and the nation changed and the world changed in ways good and bad. While we finally got the evil man who masterminded and funded this murder, we still bleed, we still fight, we still fear.
Yet, it is in the biggest target of terrorism, that glorious city we see in the distance, that I am so proud to be near, that we see the future, and it still holds hope. Throughout the decade, our city never turned on itself – there was no revenge, no hate killings. We steadfastly remained indifferent to each other’s differences. The wound gashed in the ground fills with buildings that rise and a memorial that captures the loss and will be visited by the world. We live together, Arab by Jew, white by black, poor and rich, Moslem, Christian, Asian, Mexican, Gay,Straight, Hasid, Russian, all of us in peace and without strife, a permanent and living reminder that all of God’s people can love and let live, work together, pray together, and get on with life together, without fear.
In that is the hope and a model for the world. If the world could be like New York, a glorious mess of humanity furiously coexisting in peace, we will be alright. For as things change, there’s one thing that remains true. We all are born to lives best lived in peace and the kindness of friends and strangers. If we work towards that, in ways small and large, we will have done well.