Correspondent in New York
Silence has overwhelmed the World Trade Center in New York, the main scene of the largest attack suffered by the United States in its history, on the twentieth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
It was at 8:46 in the morning in New York, the moment in which the first plane hijacked by Al Qaeda terrorists impacted on sister North of the Twin Towers. Only the tolling of the bells of St. Paul’s chapel, which has its cemetery attached to what was Ground Zero of the attacks, broke the stillness of the moment, which would be repeated later in the other significant moments of the attack: the impact of the second plane against the South tower, the attack with a third hijacked plane on the Pentagon, the accident of a fourth plane in a rural area of Pennsylvania – the passengers and the crew already knew what had happened in New York and Washington and clashed terrorists – and the collapse of the two towers. Almost three thousand people died.
The bells of St. Paul – the oldest church in Manhattan, erected in 1766 and miraculously one of the few structures that survived the attacks – tolled for all of them. The names of the victims they were read one by one, in an endless litany.
Many of them were colleagues of Mike, who belonged to the New York Fire Department (FDNY), the group most affected by the tragedy. “All the heroes who could not return home is what really hurts me,” he told this newspaper about the losses of his companions. He was dressed in an FDNY T-shirt and his face was sunburned. He belonged to a Brooklyn station then and came here after the attacks. He survived the attacks. “I’m not very aware of what happened that day, the adrenaline makes you work in chaos,” he says about a moment “for which no one is prepared. We just knew it was horrible.
Mike, like many others who participated in rescue efforts, suffers from cancer from inhaling the toxic dust left behind by the landslides. That turned the streets of this area, today pristine, between gleaming skyscrapers of new creation, into a sea of ash.
Like Mike, many New Yorkers concentrated in the vicinity of Ground Zero, in an atmosphere of recollection and remembrance. The entire World Trade Center complex, emerged from the mass of glass, metal and debris left by the attacks, was closed off. Only authorities – including US President Joe Biden -, survivors and relatives of the victims were allowed to enter.