Sunday, January 24, 2016

9/11 Is Not a Thing, It's a Way of Life

"Never Forget," the anthem that echoed across the country after 9/11 appears to have been forgotten.  When a politician in hot pursuit for the presidency chooses to invoke the ideal of being a "New Yorker" as something derogatory, we have forgotten.  We have forgotten that New York City and all of those innocent Americans heading to one destination or another took the bullet for the rest of the nation that day.  We all have moved forwarded, but it became clear on Thursday evening during the GOP Debate that some had forgotten.

As a refresher here are some numbers:

Total number of those killed in New York:  2,753
Total number of troops killed in Operation Enduring Freedom:  2,343
Number of nations whose citizens were killed in those attacks:  115
Bodies found intact: 291
Remains found: 21,906
Number of families who got no remains: 1,717

Several months ago, I was in a discussion around 9/11 and one person wondered aloud,  if it really had much of an impact on our lives any longer.  Had time removed the impact of that day.  For those who visit us a tourists, or who watch the crowds pass by the windows of the many news shows that use NYC as their backdrop, it can appear that normalcy has set back in.  However most us live in what has become to be known as the "New Normal."

This "New Normal" looks very different depending on who you are and what you do. I can only share the impact on my routine as I know it.  So here is my list.

Random bag inspections before getting on the Subway -  Whether you're heading into  Manhattan or heading out of Manhattan, you could find yourself randomly selected to have your bag(s) inspected before heading down into the subway.

Increased presence of NYPD Canines - Passing through high trafficked areas, it has become commonplace to see an officer walking the area with a canine in search of any potential threat.

Increased presence of NYPD with MP5's - Again passing through areas of high traffic you can see one or several officers carrying MP5's at the ready.  And their presence only increases when the alert level climbs, or an event of great significance happens elsewhere and there are feared ramifications for us locally.

Bridge and Tunnel Commercial Vehicle Inspections - Shortly after 9/11 having traveled to work by car often, there were significant slow downs to bridge and tunnel traffic due to inspections. Those inspections still take place but are on a much more selective basis, yet still occur on a daily basis.

Traffic Diversion/Route Changes -There are a multitude of road portions that are now closed to vehicular traffic to keep traffic away from significant landmarks.

Protective Barriers - They are everywhere.  Some are disguised as massive flower pots or other common things. Whereas some are basic police gating.  But their one goals is to protect the building they surround.

Heightened security in office buildings - Showing identification is no longer sufficient. You must also send your belongings through an x-ray machine.  For example, visiting my sister at JP Morgan this summer I had to send my tomatoes and cantaloupe through an x-ray machine before I could wait for her in the lobby.

Taxi Stands re-located - Because so many taxi stands were located in areas designed to give shelter to those who wait, it put them precariously close to major landmarks.  Almost all of them have been moved to another location, minus the shelter from the weather.

Bag Inspections everywhere - You don't go to a museum, movie, or Broadways show without getting your bag inspected.

See Something, Say Something - This has become the mantra of every New Yorker.  This campaign was launched shortly after 9/11, if you see anything or anyone out of place - maybe something peculiar - you say something.  And in the case of the attempted bombing of Times Square that really paid off. But the signs for this campaign greet us daily and if you have not seen one - be certain you will here the reminder at least once on your daily commute.

Immigration - Getting into the country legally became a great challenge. I recall working as a consultant at a pharmaceutical company post-9/11 and the impact it had on their ability to recruit qualified candidates for its global division.  We had one candidate that prior to 2001 took a role within the company in another country. During that time he fell in love and got married.  He was then offered a well earned promotion that would return him home to NYC.  But, due to the new restrictions on immigration, length of process, new requirements it would have been a few years before his wife could join him.  So he chose his marriage over his promotion and remained outside of the country.

Personal Preparedness - For everyone this looks different.  When I worked in the Manhattan, I kept a back up pair of sneakers in my desk, just in case I had to walk home again. I even had a walk home route planned and a friend I would meet up with along the way.  This past Christmas as the girls and I headed into the city to enjoy Manhattan in all its holiday glory, we prepared the girls to be safe. We spoke with them, outlining rules and then gave them bracelets that can light up brightly if they get lost in the crowd making it easier to find them.

Continued Discovery of Human Remains - Then everyone once in a while there will be new of newly discovered bone fragment that they will be working to identify.  As DNA profiling advances there will hopefully be more victim identifications.  The last identification was on March 20, 2015. This is most significant for families that need closure and haven't gotten itd.

After the last GOP debate, as a New Yorker of twenty-two years it aggravated me when I heard a pundit characterized Donald Trumps rebuttal to Ted Cruz's outdated New Yorker accusation, as invoking the "9/11 thing."  What an absolutely diminished characterization of that day.  I dislike it just as much as when politicians invoke 9/11 as a way to justify domestic spying, or yet another security protocol.   It isn't a thing, or a mechanism for fear, it is an everyday reality.  Families, corporations, fire departments, and police precincts were forever changed that day.

You see, we can never forget.  We are reminded daily.  Our daily routine is our daily reminder.  New Yorkers aren't looking for preferential treatment because of 9/11. We do however demand respect. Respect doesn't trivialize or manipulate. Nor does it demand full ideological agreement. Respect remembers the people who leapt to their death from those fiery towers.  Respect advocates for the first responders who have had to repeatedly travel to Washington DC to fight for their health benefits. Respect honors every person who gave their life in service and in death to defend our country after that terrible day.

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