20 Since | Liam Rosenberg
New York City: a place sometimes called the greatest city in the world; to others, the center of the universe. I’ve always known New York City as just “home”. It’s where I once lived, and where my parents lived, and where their parents lived, and where their parents lived, and where their parents lived.
From a young age, there are certain basic expectations of the New Yorker: knowing how to hail a cab, that it’s called seltzer and not club soda, where to find the best dollar-slice pizza, and to avoid Times Square at any and all costs. But there’s something else, too, which is less of an expectation and more of a symptom of being a New Yorker: the pride. The confidence in oneself knowing that they are from the greatest city in the world. Despite now living in California, that is something that I’ve carried with me all my life.
This sense of pride across the city also manifested itself on the day of September 12th, 2001 — the day following 9/11. It’s when the disparate, albeit ever-moving people across all five boroughs united in a display of resistance to the aggressors of the attack. It showed that, even when a symbol of the city and thousands of American lives had been upended, the heartbeat of New York refused to cease.
That’s what I’m told, anyway. To most adults, it must seem strange that nearly our entire generation wasn’t alive during a time that still feels so raw to this day. But nevertheless, it feels to me that I’ve lived through 9/11. Maybe it’s my parents’ stories, my New York heritage, or both, but every time I discuss the attacks, I get the kind of affected reaction which is grounded in a far away reality.
Our generation has lived through the effects of 9/11 to a great extent. It wasn’t until 2009 when we could reascend the enclosed stairways of Lady Liberty, and we’ve just now left Afghanistan. The War on Terror has been staggered for two decades, and we will likely never return to any semblance of the post-Soviet, TSA-free reality our parents and older siblings lived prior to 9/11. This is the life we’ve been accustomed to.
At the time of the attacks, my mom and dad had been married for just over two years. Perhaps symbolically, though, neither of them could return home from work that day — my mom stuck in Westchester County and my dad out of state. Nothing would ever be the same after the events of September 11. Another two years later, I was born on that same little island where, in the span of that time, a flank of empty land facing the New York Harbor replaced where a pair of gray buildings once stood. Now twenty years removed, life hasn’t fundamentally changed one bit.