I spent six months in Manhattan in the early 1970s. I remember New Yorkers as having an in-your-face, take-it-or-leave-it, “Are you talking to me?” attitude. Coming from the small-town, everybody-knows-everybody, “Hello, neighbor!” Midwest, I found this altogether strange, fascinating and refreshing. During the last few years, however, something has gone terribly wrong. That old attitude I came to admire is fading into extinction.
Who can forget George W. Bush, surrounded by emergency response workers while standing on a pile of rubble that only hours before was the Twin Towers? With a bullhorn in hand, and an arm around the shoulder of one of the workers, he united the nation with resolve, guts and determination. BizPacReview.com President Jack Furnari eloquently described those feelings recently and reminded each of us that “terrorists are your enemy, not your neighbor.”
Ten years after 9/11, I feel just as committed — but what about native New Yorkers? They’re the ones, after all, who were most personally affected by that tragedy. If recent events are any indication, resolve has been replaced with complacency, guts taken over by apathy and determination traded in for political correctness.
We saw the first inkling in March 2009. When developers [dropped the name “Freedom Tower”] from the new World Trade Center building after a Chinese company became its first big tenant, I totally expected New Yorkers to come back with a vibrant, “What, are you kidding me? Get outta’ here!” When they agreed to the change, I was flabbergasted.
I’d like to think that had I been the developer, I would have told the world that we would be building two towers, not one, to replace what was lost; that they would collectively be called the Freedom Towers; and that one would be referred to as “Life” and the other “Liberty,” in honor of our two most basic freedoms. I would finally announce that if any tenant was ever to even consider breaching its lease, I would personally sue that tenant to the very ends of the earth. And I’m a “nice guy” Midwesterner. New York, what happened to you?
Most recently, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided that there would be neither clergy nor first responders participating in the city’s official 10-year 9/11 commemoration. No first responders? During the horror that was 9/11, both police and firefighters ran unselfishly toward the danger as most everyone else ran away. More stories of valor were written that day than any other in recent memory. As reported by this publication’s own Michele Kirk, the village of Wellington made first responders an integral part of its 9/11 tribute. Yet New York, where it all took place, could find neither the time nor the room for them.
As for clergy, this was an event where people sought comfort and meaning after the events of 9/11. Bill O’Reilly recently argued that it was an “American commemoration” and “prominent members of all religious faiths should be invited to speak. If I’m Bloomberg, I take a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi, a Muslim imam, a couple of Protestant ministers, and I put them up there.”
If it were up to me, I’d forget the imam. No offense intended, but our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and to quote O’Reilly, this was an “American commemoration.” If the mayor felt it would take too long to have each of them speak, he could’ve appointed a single speaker with a coin flip. Although I was raised Roman Catholic, words of wisdom from rabbis and ministers are fine by me.
I miss the old New York attitude. Its brash honesty and boisterous chutzpah truly defined the New York demeanor and character. When the lord said, “The meek shall inh
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