NEW YORK – One month can sometimes feel like a lifetime. For many, each day is marked by the struggle to recover. It’s another step towards an uncertain future. Sept. 11 has forever changed the city.
At 8:48 a.m., in observance of the moment the first plane hit Tower One, a brief memorial service is held at Ground Zero. Recovery workers with hardhats in hand, singing Amazing Grace paused their recovery efforts in respect for those who had lost their lives.
The smoking remains of the 16 square acres that once was the World Trade Center (WTC), have spots burning at temperatures of 2,000 degrees. Two electrical power stations, 300,000 phone lines, subway stations connecting to every part of NYC were destroyed. Experts are saying that it will take over a year to clear the area even with round-the-clock shifts working seven-day weeks.
Around Ground Zero the devastation can be seen, smelled and felt.
Those who live and work closest to the site go through security checkpoints to gain access to the ‘frozen zone’ that is secured by National Guard and the NYPD.
People walk the streets with masks or their arms across there face due to the smoke and particles that fly from what is called ‘The Pile.’
Leaflets advertise a community meeting tonight to discuss the possible health dangers from the smoldering air that covers the area. The EPA continues to say there are no health risks. Business Week admits, ‘For years, Europeans have banned the toxic, carcinogenic building and office products that fill most American workplaces.’
‘The Twin Towers were loaded with millions of items – office furniture, computer circuitboards, plastic garbage cans, copy machines – that were never meant to be burned. ‘The resulting volcano of hazardous waste spewed carcinogenic chemicals, vaporized organic compounds, and highly dangerous combustible gases.’
Hundreds of small businesses like pizza shops, dry cleaners, delis and newsstands are doing their own clean-up. They are now in danger of going under due to damage, lost business or the lack of customers in the frozen zone.
A Ground Zero task force of elected officials headed by Rep. Gerald Nadler (D-N.Y.) is spearheading efforts to help small businesses, which have largely been ignored.
About 100,000 workers have lost their jobs. Laid-off workers and victims’ families in the tri-state area are trying to wind their way through the series of state, city and private agencies for assistance.
Undocumented immigrant workers, who not only worked under duress for a decent life for their families, also perished without their rightful benefits. One month later many families still fear seeking help will cause deportation.
One billion dollars has been raised from all kinds of people – from movie stars to schoolchildren. Yet there is no co-ordinated effort by the private charities to allocate the monies in an equitable way to cover everyone affected.
Business Week reports that it will cost billions to rebuild the area’s infrastructure. New York Gov. George Pataki spent the one-month anniversary lobbying Congress for a $54 billion aid package.
The $40 billion already approved by Congress has only $17.5 billion earmarked for New York. Yet even through this tragedy, the ultraright and corporations push their own agenda. The New York Post reports that conservatives in Congress are trying to steer the majority of that money into defense spending.
On Oct. 11, 44 Republican senators used a filibuster to prevent the Senate from adding an aviation worker relief package to airline security legislation.
It’s estimated the city will lose $1 billion in revenues this fiscal year plus the budget will be hit by the billions in recovery costs already spent on cleanup and public services. The mayor this week called for a 15 percent budget cut for all city agencies, with the Board of Education and the NYPD taking a 2.5 percent hit.
No plan exists, on any level of government, to put the 100,000 jobless back to work.
National Guardsmen are in Penn Station, Port Authority and Grand Central watching the commuters arrive and depart. The Daily News reports that surveillance cameras are being installed in the 468 train stations, electrical substations, ventilation plants and tunnels city-wide.
Reminders of the tragedy of Sept. 11 are everywhere. Fire stations have become memorials of flowers, candles pictures and notes of condolences. Walls, lampposts and busstops surrounding hospitals still have leaflets with photos seeking information about the missing. Twenty funerals and memorials are held today, as they have been every day this month.
Yet even through the devastation, hope springs eternal with the youth. The high school and college students have come back to their buildings surrounding Ground Zero this week. Many students saw from their classrooms people falling from the WTC and the buildings collapse.
One student, Alex Menglide, said, ‘I have completely eliminated the word ‘hate’ from my vocabulary. So many people died just because of hate.’
Another high school student, Ciama Bejasa, said, ‘Bombing Afghanistan does nothing. We’re not solving anything – we’re only making a bigger problem. We should cut off bin Laden’s money. If he has no money, he has no power.’
Abdul-Aziz Hassan from the Harlem-Washington Heights club of the Young Communist League said, ‘A lot of young people don’t know what to do with this anger they have. Some flip it to forms of racial profiling,’ while others take the same anger to fight for a just cause.
‘Even myself, I feel some confusion but a lot of it is becoming clearer as I become active in the peace movement and being around people who feel the same as I do.’
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