9/11 Anniversary: Two Sides Of New York's 'Frozen Zone'
Much of Lower Manhattan on Sunday was a "frozen zone," with barricades thrown up for blocks around the World Trade Center, police officers with binoculars scanning rooftops for snipers, and Coast Guard ships patrolling the Hudson. West Street, usually roaring with the sounds of cars and trucks emerging from the Battery Tunnel, was a carless canyon. Coffee shops and pizza parlors stood empty, aside from the occasional cop catching a quick bite to eat.
Outside the frozen zone, New York's usual carnival of tourists, street preachers and the mentally deranged were joined by nearly 200 9/11 "Truthers," a small gang from Fred Phelps' church and 150 or so people organized by the blogger Pamela Geller to "stop the Islamization of America."
Somebody asked an NYPD officer at a barricade across the street if he could make them shut up.
"If I had a Taser, I would," he replied with a laugh.
Today was extraordinary, but officers like him will be part of Lower Manhattan's new normal, as a new World Trade Center precinct with 600-plus officers patrols the area.
The local community board chair, Julie Menin, calls that police presence, and all its attendant inconveniences, "a burden -- but one we've had to learn to accept."
On Sunday, for one day at least, the many layers of protection between the outside world and the 9/11 Memorial Plaza seemed less like a burden and more like a blanket. The day after Bin Laden died, the police officers in this neighborhood walked the streets with a swagger. But today the NYPD, the Port Authority police, the state police, the park rangers, the Secret Service -- all walked with a bearing that seemed to say they knew this shift was more than just a job.
Inside the frozen zone, the sounds weren't of demonstrations but of the names of those lost, of the memorial's undulating waterfalls and of silence.
A remarkable diversity of family members had gathered. Many wore clothes of mourning, others wore the uniforms of the FDNY or the NYPD, and then there were the children, some of them even in strollers -- a sign that life has gone on since 9/11.
The sheer number of all those people was a simple and sobering reminder of how many lost their loved ones 10 years ago. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose office organized the memorial ceremony, was heavily criticized for excluding clergy and first responders from the service. As all those family members made their way to the memorial to find the names of those they'd lost, however, the mayor's contention that there simply wasn't enough room made sense. Too many people were lost that day.
Ruben Quintona lost two brothers in the North Tower. Their remains have not been substantially recovered. On Sunday he made the trip inside the security cordon to visit the memorial.
"Since we never really had anything for them," he told a pool reporter, "this is like their final resting place."