John Hollingshead, came to ground zero today with his Mennonite church group, to spread the word of God Photo by Diego Lynch.
Ground zero has become a mecca, for the family and friends of victims and looky-loos alike.
Among the pilgrims there is a smattering of evangelizers. They hand out pamphlets, pray and sing to the currents of people who flock to the area to work and to pay their respects.
At the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks today, John Hollingshead, 25, was in attendance with a traveling group of Mennonites that are based in Russell, Mass. He and the church’s members are looking to increase their flock of believers and think that this site is an important place to spread God’s word and to heal.
“Christ is both the forgiver, but also the healer,” he said. “And that is what we are here for, the healing.”
For most of the day the memorial is closed to the general public. Until 3 p.m., the park is utilized by the surviving loved one’s for a service. This leaves the tourists to circle downtown, through the Tribeca, Financial District and Battery Park, killing time until it is opened and they spiral inwards.
Deploying to catch the whirling masses, multiple teams of Jehovah’s Witness shift from street corner-to-corner, wielding wheeled displays of literature and photographs.
The promotion of healing was a running theme.
“For instance, when Hurricane Katrina happened some religious leaders said that was God’s will,” said Christine Dinniene, 42, a Jehovah’s Witness, who was distributing literature that morning. But she disagrees. “The bible helps us to see that God would never do such wicked things.”
She believes people can recover from a disaster through God and that God gives comfort to those who feel alone.
“A lot of people don’t have a voice, are forgotten, we live in a very wealthy city, she said. “You see a lot of people who are very neglected.”
There was a degree of nostalgia for the religious climate of the United States that flourished in the aftermath of the attacks.
“It is a lot colder, there isn’t near as much emotion,” said Hollingshead, of the change in the religious mood of the country.
The increased faithfulness after 9/11 was attributed to a natural reaction to disaster.
“It is like they say, there are no Atheists in foxholes,” Dinniene said.
Sam Kedem(left) and Les Speiser (right) were first responders during the Ground Zero Relief effort and meet every year for the 9/11 memorial service, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. Both have suffered from health issues as a result of their time at Ground Zero. Photo by Taisha Henry.
Les Speiser has chronic sinusitis, chronic bronchitis, restrictive pulmonary disease,chronic laryngitis, and a disease in his vocal cords
He is one of the reported thousands of ground zero workers who have battled a range of illnesses since the attack.
I’ve got plenty wrong,” said Speiser while holding two pages of prescriptions.
Today Speiser and his friend and fellow first responder Sam Kedeem came together to remember the terrorist attack that they too became victims of. Each year they and others gather together with news of who else has died.
“Every year we have a memorial get together and we watch a video of us working down at Ground Zero and every year we point to people who aren’t around anymore, we point to people in the video, ‘this one died, this one has cancer, this one is dying,’ said Kedem, who is a clinical psychologist.
Now these men and countless others face an end to the medical support they were given through. The Zadroga Act, which provided medical benefits and screening and The World Trade The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program which offers $2.75 billion dollar in aid will expire in October 2016. The 9/11 Environmental Action organization states that 70,000 people who were affected by the September 11 attacks rely on these funds.
Speiser, a former advertising agent, is a Brooklyn native and was a part of the food relief effort. He served food to the workers on ground zero during the months following 9/11.
Kedem, a clinical psychologist, and Speiser believe that all workers illnesses must be a direct result of the toxins.
“I have asthma now and have to take medication for it, I never had that before, I ran a marathon before,” said Kedem.
Speiser rarely got sick and believes his exposure to the toxins has effected him.
“I was healthy as a horse, he said. “I got sick once maybe every four years, I never got sick until after I volunteered. My right lung doesn’t expand, I had to go to speech therapy to learn to speak through my nose and not my throat. I have had a constant headache for 12 ½ years. I’ve learned to live with it.”
With Speiser’s health issues and recent cancer scare, Kedem is worried about what may become of his friend.
“We see each other every year,” he said. “I’m afraid I’m not going to see him next year. That’s what I really believe, I’m afraid I’m not going to see him next year.”
Despite his own illnesses, Speiser is worried about the other responders and victims who may not receive aid if the Zadroga Act doesn’t get renewed.
Although lung and mental health issues were known effects of Ground Zero toxins, Dr. Trasande, who is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Environmental Medicine & Population Health at New York University, said two more diseases have shown up in first responders.
“We are seeing heart disease and cancer, he said. “They are the two that have been appearing more.”
According to media reports, 2,500 ground zero responders were diagnosed with cancer in 2014. As of August 2015 the number has risen to 3.700.
Mike Holy and Miriam Holy travel from Maryland to commemorate the lives lost on 9/11. Photo by Alexandra Zuccaro
Outside of the 9/11 memorial this morning, Mike Holy and Miriam Holy sat quietly. Every single year since the attack that took 2,753 lives, this Maryland couple has traveled to New York City to remember and mourn. Today marked their 14th trip to ground zero.
Although the Holys did not know any of the victims, they both grew up in the area and felt deeply connected to the tragedy.
“I remember that day so vividly. I was listening to the radio when I heard that a plane crashed into the first tower. Everyone thought it was an accident, but when the second plane came in at 9:05 a.m., I knew that we were at war again,” Mike Holy said.
On top of being raised in the city, Mike Holy had the added connection of being able to sympathize as a Vietnam War Veteran. He was all too familiar with the concept of losing loved ones in the line of duty, similar to what many first responders had experienced.
“One motive for me coming here is what came after 9/11,” he said. “A problem with war is that we don’t do a very good job with bringing people back.”
The Vietnam War Veteran also recalled a meeting he had with a fireman who was there during the evacuation of the Twin Towers. After they talked and exchanged stories, the fireman gave Mike Holy a pin he had received for his service, which featured a waving American flag in the background and the head of a stoic, bald eagle in the forefront.
“I told him I can’t take this, this is yours. And then he just told me, now it’s yours,” he said as he proudly showed off the patriotic pin he was wearing on his baseball cap.
Miriam Holy was also drawn to the memorial today. In Maryland, she works as a nurse and remembered how the attack on the Pentagon made everyone so anxious. She saw how intensely everyone was affected, and how vulnerable people became.
The bond between first responders and war veterans was unmistakable. Even around the memorial grounds, men and women in uniforms of all different colors, shapes, and sizes proceeded to the entrance together.
Despite the large crowds wanting to participate in the memorial service, access was limited to family members.
But that won’t stop the Holys from returning next year.
“Growing up, coming into the city was always a treat,” said Miriam Holy. “But today’s not a treat, it’s an obligation.”
Jeanette Gutierrez walked past the 9/11 Memorial Museum today and remembered the tragic day when her sister most likely saved her life.
Gutierrez, 53, from Brooklyn, was at her desk on the 16th floor at the Third World Financial Center, a building directly across from the North Tower when the plane hit it. She felt strange and long vibrations in her skin, and heard a loud noise, but thought nothing of it. But when she heard sirens, she felt comfort knowing that the police were handling it and went back to work.
“I glanced up from my desk to the window that was down several desks, and saw big things flying down past the window,” Gutierrez said. “I went to the window and pressed my face in the window, and that’s when I saw the gaping hole, black smoke, and fire, and immediately thought it was a bomb.”
Gutierrez did not know that a second plane hit the South Tower because the North Tower blocked her view. Gutierrez’s sister, Gayle who worked for the government in a downtown office, called and told her about the second hit, and to evacuate. But security officers did not want her to leave her desk, so she stayed. Her sister would not give up, she insisted she leave, and that they meet at the McDonalds in the area. Gutierrez gave in and decided to leave the building.
When she got to the lobby she could see that the situation was spiraling out of control. She was scared to go outside.
“There were people in my lobby sitting on the floor, they were bleeding, and I did not want to go outside if these people came from out there,” she said. “There was no way for me to reach my sister, so I had to go.”
Gutierrez made it to the McDonalds and her sister. Together they were able to get far enough away from the unfolding tragedy.
“I could not understand why my sister would leave her office and not go home to her three children and her husband,” she said.” Instead she came to a plaza with two burning buildings to make sure I didn’t stay at my desk.”
Gutierrez now volunteers at the September 11th Memorial and Museum as a way to give back to the city in her own special way.
“I did not lose a single person in 9/11, which is amazing being a New Yorker, and working down there, but now I know so many people who have,” said Gutierrez. “So you share their grief, but overall it is an honor to me.”
Many downtown workers honored the14th anniversary of 9/11 by wearing decorative shirts that commemorated the ceremony, or by actually working. Many of them were lost in memory.
Vinny Vanuti looked down on the memorial service from a window with his coworkers as they worked on the plumbing system in the new One World Trade Center. Though he was not personally affected, he does what he can to give back.
“Me working in the building is a job, but it’s a way of giving back to the city, and it’s a sense of pride”, he said. “To use your craftsmanship in the building, and knowing that you did, is a great feeling.”
Evangelist, Mary Clement, blessed every police officer she encountered as she walked to the monument to pray for the victims and families. She didn’t lose anybody on 9/11, but knows people from some churches that have, and it made her come to help.
“We must encourage each other”, said Clement. “When one hurts we all hurt. We’re all one race, the human race. So everyday we must strive for peace, equality, and to love one another like Jesus said.”
It has been 14 years, and Gutierrez feels without 9/11, and the heroism she witnessed, she wouldn’t be where or who she is today.
“I don’t know what makes a regular person help someone they don’t know, but I recognized that we were just human beings helping each other that day,” she said. “9/11 opened up a different world for me, a better world for me, and because of it, I am a better person.”
Condé Nast employees Berkeley Gibson and Hayley Sumela return from their lunch break to resume work at One World Trade Center. by Elizabeth Arakelian
Every morning Hayley Samela gets up in her Hoboken, NJ apartment and peers out her window where she sees the newest addition to Manhattan’s skyline: One World Trade Center.
The 1,776 foot building — the highest in the western hemisphere — is more than a beautiful site to behold for Sumela. It is also where she works.
“I would look at this building all the time because I see it from my window view where I live at home and you know, we all talk about it and we all saw the building going up, but I never thought I would be working in this building,” Sumela said.
Sumela is employed by Condé Nast, which occupies one-third of the nation’s tallest skyscraper. She was already with the company when it moved from its Times Square location and described the transition to One WTC as “surreal.”
“When we first moved here, I mean there was nobody here. It was like “Is the building even open? Am I going through the right doors?” There was a lot of construction still going on and I felt like I was the only person walking the hallways sometimes,” Samela said.
The scene at One WTC has changed since its opening in 2014 as the Center has taken on a life of its own, functioning as both a business hub and sightseeing destination. While entrance to One WTC is reserved for only those with proper identification, the security guards do double duty by directing scores of tourists towards the nearby memorial. Just as many employees enter the building as visitors who pause to gawk at the tower lending the area an odd dynamic as an intersection of tragedy and trade.
Standing as a resilient reminder of the horrific terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, One WTC has become a symbol of progress in New York and the nation. Those who work there are daily in the proximity to the site of tragedy that has since become a hallmark of this generation.
“The first time I went to the memorial it was very overwhelming, but when you get to come here everyday it gets less emotional” said Nelly Bakhtadze, an employee of technology firm Symphony.
Though the hundreds of individuals that walk into One World Trade Center everyday can likely recall precisely where they were when the towers were hit, for many the tragedy is something to remember, not relive.
“I think there is so much security in the way the building has been built I hope that there would never be an issue again,” said Condé Nast employee Berkeley Gibson.
GQ Magazine employee John Keeley was in fourth grade in South Jersey when the towers were hit and while he recalls cowering under his desk in fear and confusion, today he proudly enters the doors of One WTC calling it an “amazing opportunity.”
“You tend to find, some people think it’s really cool that I work in the World Trade Center and some people are like “Are you scared that something’s going to happen?” It’s like, no,” he said. I get to walk through the memorial everyday and the water is running and there is this beautiful park and I think it is great that we have this awesome new building.”
“God Bless America,” the message Wanda Thompson, a New York resident, left on a mural on Church Street on Sept. 11, 2015. Photo by Karis Rogerson.
For yearly travelers to the Sept. 11 memorial in New York City, the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks was another opportunity not only to focus on remembering the tragedy, but also to celebrate America’s recovery.
Jose Colon, a New Yorker, visits the memorial every year on the anniversary and has put together a vest decorated with medals and insignia in memoriam of the victims. He lost a firefighter friend in the attack 14 years ago.
Although he visits the memorial every year, each anniversary brings with it new emotions, he said.
“Sometimes I just sit, and sometimes I get mad,” Colon said. “You know, we were attacked here, in our own country. [9/11] changed the country and the whole world.”
Colon added that in his 14 years experiencing the anniversary, he’s noticed a slight change in public attitude toward the event.
“People today, it’s not like before,” he said. “Before, you would be more crowded here. Today people seem to be forgetting about it, but this is something you cannot forget, because at any given time, it could happen again, you know?”
Members of the public were not allowed into the memorial itself until early afternoon Friday, but that didn’t keep the very faithful from showing up downtown.
Conspiracy theorists on street corners urged passersby to look more closely into 9/11 and interested people stopped to write the names of loved ones on a mural Century 21 set up on Church Street, while others merely hustled from subway stops to work. Many stopped to remember the tragedy more than a decade after it shook the country, but many others appeared engrossed in the mundaneness of work on a Friday morning.
While Colon said he believes in remembering in order to prevent a reoccurrence, others simply wanted to remember and honor those lost.
Navy veteran Richard Fill of Easton, Pa., said he travels the 75 miles from his home to ground zero every year to keep from forgetting the event. He’s afraid others have lost interest.
“I never forget, but probably for a lot of people it’s just another day,” Fill said.
“But it’s not another day. To me, it should be considered like a national holiday, where nobody works on Sept. 11.”
Fill, who visits the site every year, worked for U.S. Airways and was on the crew trying to land hundreds of flights on Sept. 11, 2001, said the event really “touched home,” and that is another reason why he makes the yearly pilgrimage to ground zero. He is also proud of his country.
“The country’s a mess, but to me it’s the best country there is,” Fill said. “Every country has its problems, but there’s no other place I’d rather be than the U.S.”
A native New Yorker and Staten Island resident, Wanda Thompson, took a moment Friday to leave a message on the side of a wall that Century 21 had turned into a mural in honor of the day.
“God Bless America,” she wrote, saying she stops by the memorial every year and appreciates the country’s recovery.
“I’m always so encouraged, and it makes me feel so good to come down and see everybody,” Thompson said. “It makes me love being a New Yorker even more.
“Never mind Taylor Swift,” she added, laughing, “it should be Wanda Thompson the ambassador for New York.” (Swift was named New York City’s Global Welcome Ambassador for 2014-2015 last fall).
Thompson acknowledged that the anniversary is a solemn occasion memorializing a tragic event. Nonetheless, she said, she is able to see ways in which America has become stronger because of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“It makes me feel happy that, as sad as it is, it has brought a lot of people together that might not necessarily have come together,” Thompson said. “So I love that as ugly as it may be, but on today — and you know, this whole week and even other times — that we could talk about it and share stories and it’s bringing us together.”
Riley Samson, 18, and Annabel Newman, 18, of the West Village walked their dogs around the unusually deserted West Village this evening. Photo by Virginia Gunawan
Despite whipping winds and heavy snow, dogs need to poop and pee. So as Manhattan’s West Village streets started turning white this evening, dogs and their owners were taking care of business.
“It’s not like I really want to take them out, it’s because I have to,” said Riley Samson, 18, of the West Village. “My dog needs to pee and poo and do other stuffs outside, so I’m taking her out.”
Samson was out with her brown female Labradoodle, Wizhtle. Walking along them was Samson’s childhood friend, Annabel Newman, with her neighbor’s dog, Zack.
“The case is a little different for me, I got paid for walking Zack,” said Newman, 18, also of the West Village. For her service, she got $25 for one hour walk.
While Zack was curiously and carefully observing the snow, Wizhtle was exuberant. She wanted to explore every nook and crannie of the street and was vigorously sniffing around.
“It gets difficult sometimes to hold her because she’s got too excited with the snow,” said Samson. “I have to grip the leash tightly and be really careful with my steps too.”
Unlike other fashionable dogs in New York, Zack and Wizhtle did not wear sweater or dog boots.
“She’s a big dog and she wouldn’t let me put a sweater on her,” said Samson. “After all, she doesn’t need one.”
“The only thing that concerns us is the salt they use on the snow,” said Newman. “Zack’s owner has been telling everyone around the neighbor to use blue salt.”
Salt used as ice melt can damage dogs’ paws, leading to infection. Even worse, if dogs lick their paws and ingest the chemically unhealthy substance, it could be poisonous for them.
The two childhood friends walked around the neighborhood for almost one hour, before calling it a day as the sun set.
“I’m actually preparing for it to be colder,” said Newman.
She wore her ski jacket, snow pants and snow boots.
“I feel like everyone is freaking out for no reason,” said Newman.
Her mother had stocked up food and had thought of filling the tub in case they run out of water.
“But then, maybe we are underreacting to it,” Samson reminded Newman that today is going to be the first time subways were shut down because of snow.
Charlie Shaw, owner of Cheap Charlie’s, a variety store on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint. Photo by Neil Giardino.
New Yorkers braced for what Mayor Bill DeBlasio has warned could be the largest snowstorm in city’s history Monday, with forecast wind gusts of 50 miles per hour and up to three feet of snow accumulation. The Mayor urged New Yorkers to return home before Monday evening rush hour to avoid blustering winds, dangerously low visibility, and treacherous roads.
As the colossal Nor’easter dubbed Juno rushed headlong into the Northeastern Seaboard Monday afternoon, Brooklynites weren’t taking any chances. At a packed Associated Supermarket in Greenpoint, residents like Bonnie Class girded themselves for worst-case scenarios.
“I’m actually from Florida – a lot of hurricanes there – so, I’m getting ready, getting basic stuff. A lot of crackers, some fruit, some bread, just some stuff to last three or four days I guess.” Her plans for the evening: “Stay in and not work,” she said.
As snow began to blanket bustling Manhattan Avenue, retailers like Charlie Shaw, owner of Cheap Charlie’s, weren’t put out by the threat of massive snowdrifts and slick roads. “Most of my business for the snowstorm will be the salt, the shovels, the car cleaning and windshield wiper fluids. I’ll come in tomorrow too because I know people are going to look for this stuff in the morning,” he said.
In previous years Mr. Shaw said he has run out of de-icing salt during major storms, but this year he’s banking on moving a lot of it. He’s stocked a surplus in anticipation of winter storms like Juno.
In expectation of the worst, the MTA tweeted a readiness to shut down all train and bus service, along with Metro North and Long Island Rail Road trains by 11pm at the behest of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. As mass transit hunkers down for a blizzard predicted to pummel the city, Greenpoint resident Emily Guthrie wasn’t fazed.
“I’m from the Midwest, it snows a lot. I think New Yorkers freak out a little too much about it,” she said. Still, Guthrie thought it wise to stock up on a few items at the C-Town Supermarket on Manhattan Avenue just in case.One last stop for many in the neighborhood is Polemost Liquor, also on Manhattan Avenue. Clerk Thomas Dunne said he anticipated an uptick in sales as he salted his storefront entrance. He said winter storms like this tend to be a boon for the store. “Business is better. There’s nothing to do and people are just staying home, relaxing, drinking wine, so we sell more.”
Markus Zakaria, 22, outside his apartment on campus at NYU during the blizzard. Photo credit: Christina Dun
It’s the first day back to school and already there’s a snow day.
For many students living in New York City for the first time, alerts of “Snowmageddon 2015” or #NYCBlizzard is something new to experience.
“This is nothing like Dubai,” said Markus Zakaria, a music technology grad student at NYU who lives on campus. He has gone from growing up in Dubai to pursuing his undergraduate degree in Florida, where he’s no stranger to the heat. Here in NYC however, it’s a little different this time of year.
“So far I’m enjoying it. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this,” he said. “It’s not too cold just yet, but I hear it’s going to get worse.”
Two to three feet of snow is expected to fall by Tuesday night but he’s not getting too worried.
While it seems like the rest of New York is in a state of panic, Zakaria is looking on the bright side.
“Coming from a hot place to a cold place, I actually prefer this,” he said. “You can always put more clothes on, but there’s only so much you can remove when it’s too hot.”
It’s a good thing he likes to wear layers, as New Yorkers must bundle up in those heavy jackets and scarves this week. Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency Monday afternoon, warning people to stay safe at home. The MTA also announced that all bus, commuter rail and subway services would be suspended at 11 p.m. Monday night.
NYU students received multiple emails, texts and notifications of closures and cancelled classes and Zakaria is excited to get to fully experience the snow in the city.
While New York residents are preparing for the storm by stocking up on food, water and supplies, Zakaria feels like he’s ready. He said he’s stocked up and has snow boots at hand, but since he hasn’t seen it that bad yet, he isn’t too sure what to expect.
Lines at grocery stores have been incredibly long, as seen throughout social media, and shelves are emptying, all to get ready for the blizzard that’s been named Juno.
For Zakaria, he’s seeing more good than bad so far and he’s just living in the moment.
“I can’t see how it would be horrible, but I guess we’ll see how this day goes,” he said. “I’m looking forward to building snowmen and snow angels though.”