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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The lessons of Sept. 11

America changed forever on September 11, 2001. Six years after the attacks, 9-11 is a demarcation date, one synonymous with December 7, 1941.

It is this generation's Day of Infamy, defined by the images of commercial jets slamming into the twin towers in New York City's financial district. In the initial aftermath of the attacks, as the unthinkable became the undeniable, people looked for an answer to the madness swirling around them. For the briefest of moments, social tensions among city residents dissolved; but these bonds soon gave way to a sense of distrust that continues up to the present.

The subsequent fallout created by 9-11 had immediate and long-term effects on the city and its residents. New York, once considered the nexus point of America's celebrated "Melting Pot," rapidly became a boiling cauldron of hyphenated Americans whose languages, religious beliefs and garb served as focal points of distrust.

Along Woodhaven Boulevard, one of the busiest commercial areas in the borough of Queens, numerous small businesses staffed by "Arab looking" employees shuttered their doors in fear of retaliation. "Real" Americans, with an overdeveloped sense of xenophobia, physically and verbally attacked followers of the Sikh religion, whose male members wear turbans as a sign of their faith. New York City, an urban matrix nuanced by millions of people from every race, ethnic background, political persuasion and religion became a closed society dominated by mistrust. [Link]

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