Police and ambulance sirens blaring nonstop; the acrid smell of burning bodies and air so thick it hurts to breathe; pictures posted throughout the city in hopes of finding surviving loved ones; and a growing number of makeshift memorials with candles and flowers by those same pictures - that was New York City five years ago.
Our lives have changed forever since that fateful day, but not all has been for the worst. True, we can’t travel as freely as we used to and must check in early at the airports. True, armed guards with machine guns still greet us as we drive through the tunnels on our way back from tennis in Queens. True, we see police cars parked at all bridges, tunnels, and vulnerable office buildings. They aren’t looking for speeders or robbers, but for potential terrorists. Their presence has changed the atmosphere in the city and deterred muggers and petty criminals who used to prey on us in the old days.
Probably thanks to 9-11, New York has become a better place to live. Crime is way down. People are back out enjoying Broadway, Central Park, and all that New York has to offer - even at night. The restaurant business is thriving. It’s become a safer and more pleasant city.
Some of the credit must be given to Mayors Michael Blumberg and his predecessor Rudy Giuliani, both of whom believed in law and order. Giuliani’s belief stems from a background in the prosecutor’s office, and Bloomberg’s stems from a background in business. Bloomberg treats New York like one of his business empires and realizes that he can’t have a successful business without law and order. Most New Yorkers - republicans and democrats alike - agree that he has done an admirable job in ruling a city that was previously considered unrulable.
Ask any New Yorker about 9-11, and he or she will have stories and vivid memories about that day. But we are a resilient bunch, proud of how well we perform during crises. We don’t always agree on things, but we respect one another’s thoughts. Take, for instance, the memorial for the World Trade Center. It’s been five years, and we still can’t agree on what kind of memorial to build and where to put it. Oh well, life goes on.
Strange, also, is the anti-war sentiment of New Yorkers. Even in the early days of Afghanistan and Iraq, most New Yorkers were opposed to military action. Long a democrat stronghold, the anti-war sentiment is strong here in our liberal press and on the streets.
We also fear another incident on our own ground. I still cringe when I hear a plane flying overhead, although planes are now forbidden from flying directly over Manhattan, even on their way to nearby LaGuardia Airport. Most people I talk to are not so much afraid of being attacked again by airplanes as they are by dirty bombs and subway poisons. Many people I know won’t ride the subways but take buses, even though it takes longer. We are incensed at the idea of taking away 40 percent of our federal money for safety protection, and in our own New York self-centered way, we can’t imagine how terrorists would want to bomb any place else. We know we are sitting ducks, but we stay. If they hit, they hit. New York will always come through in the end.
Do I still think about leaving New York and retiring to Florida or some other lovely Sunbelt place? Yeah. Will I do it? Probably not.
Jean Furuyama, DDS, FAGD, FADI
Dr. Furuyama is the past president of the AAWD and owner of a group practice in Manhattan, N.Y. She has trained with some of the world’s most prominent dental-laser specialists. E-mail her at [email protected]