Most of the labels that were coined after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 are succinct and direct: “heroes,” “responders,” “martyrs,” and “evil-doers” all come to mind. Each conveys instantly and without ambiguity who is being talked about. But 15 years later, there is one category still in search of a rubric. What do we call the people who were here that day, who fled from their homes and places of business in fear of their lives, and then came back to carry on?
There are any number of epithets that would be eloquent, but incomplete: Victims? Refugees? Returnees? Rebuilders? What we have settled on is “survivors.” Like all the best improvisations of language, it is imperfect, but it works. We might have perished, but we did not. We might never have returned, but we did. This community might have gone back to its previous existence as a business district, but instead continued to thrive as a residential enclave. Rather that being remembered as a place where thousands died, it is now known as a place where tens of thousands live.
In this sense, “survivors” is not the word is appears to be, meaning “those who continued to live.” That implies too passive a role, connoting merely people who did not do something else, such as die or move away. For Lower Manhattan in the first 15 years of this century, it denotes a more active and determined role: people who were scattered, but coalesced into a community once more, people who sustained and continued something that might have been lost.
Survivors will gather tomorrow (Sunday, September 11) for what has become their de facto memorial service, at the Manhattan Youth Downtown Community Center (120 Warren Street, near the corner of West Street). There will be shared reflections, and a collective giving of thanks, along with refreshments, and chamber music by the Tribeca Players. The observance begins at 2:00 pm.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust will also welcome guests (with no admission charge), from 10:00 am through 5:45 pm. The Museum’s theme for the day is “Zai-kher tsaddik livrakha”: “May the memory of the righteous be for a blessing.”
Another opportunity for survivors to come together will be the the annual Tunnel to Towers Run, which for years has welcomed organized groups from around the United States and as far away as Europe and Asia. This year, it will include one more squad of racers, albeit from closer to home: residents of Lower Manhattan are being asked to participate as a dedicated group, for the first time. As a way of thanking the surrounding communities of Battery Park City, the Financial District, the South Street Seaport and Tribeca, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation is issuing a special invitation to the area residents to join the five-kilometer run/walk on Sunday, September 25, as a group, called “the Neighbors,” to participate as a team in the event and the afterparty that follows. Admission to the 2016 Tunnel to Towers Run for members of “the Neighbors” team is priced $60 for adults, with children participating free of charge (provided they are accompanied by an adult). To register, please browse: www.crowdrise.com/the-neighbors