This morning marked the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 men, women and children, most of whom died in the city’s Financial District at the World Trade Center. Security felt tighter this year as streets were cordoned off and NYPD directed thousands of onlookers around the World Trade Center memorial site, was closed to the public, and officers stopped some walkers randomly to be frisked.
But it felt happier on the scene, too, more hopeful. Even as the names of the lost were read, there were fewer tears. Tourists and mourners didn’t direct their cameras down toward what for years after 9/11 was a gaping hole, a mass grave, but up towards One World Trade Center, the half-built skyscraper that already feels like the greatest marvel in the city. The shiny new glass gives way at the top of the tower to matte black tarp, giving 1 WTC the appearance of a still-healing wound. The incomplete scab looks like a closer representation of the American psyche than a completed building probably ever will.
But it’s not until the final names are read and the streets clear out a bit that you get a sense of the progress the Financial District has made, and what the memorial means to the area. Today marks the first anniversary of the 9/11 memorial’s grand opening. As recently as last year, the district felt like a ghost town for much of the day, as men and women in suits arrived at 8 a.m., worked until 6 p.m., then took the an express line back uptown or the PATH into New Jersey. Many bars and restaurants in the area floundered. Some closed.
It wasn’t until the memorial opened a year ago today that tourism and money flooded back into the Financial District. Hours after the ceremony ended today, O’Hara’s, and Irish pub directly across from the site, was packed with laughing and drunk firefighters, almost all in uniform and many with clover stickers on their chest.
O’Hara’s wasn’t the only place enjoying its newfound business. Even with the memorial closed, restaurants around Wall Street hosted bustling lunch crowds.
“It’s been good,” the Blue Planet Grill’s general manager, Jacob Krumgalz, told the Voice. His restaurant waited to open 11 months ago, after the memorial became open to the public, and he says business has picked up steadily since they’ve moved in, due to a mixture of tourists and New Yorkers moving into the area’s relatively affordable apartments. Neighboring bar and restaurant owners agreed, saying that they’re getting more visitors. One manager told the Voice that “business has quadrupled” in the last year alone.
It looks like the Financial District, one of the greatest casualties of the 9/11 attacks, is getting back on their feet. When we asked Krumgalz if there have been any snags thus far, he could only point out to the memorial’s bathrooms, which aren’t yet working.
“One problem we have: bathrooms. We always get tourists coming in and tying our bathrooms up,” he said. “It’s a big issue.”