A picture-perfect day. Backdoor open to a cool September breeze. Mom was folding laundry in the living room at our home in Queens as we watched Good Morning America. It was the morning of September 11, 2001.
Suddenly, the TV cut away from two people talking to footage of the World Trade Center, smoke billowing out of a gaping hold on its side. One of them said there had been an explosion. The other said maybe a plane had hit the building. Neither was sure.
For 15 minutes they talked while the TV camera showed footage of the tower. They interviewed a man on his cell-phone who had said it was a missile. Another said 40,000 people were trapped. The TV showed close-ups of flames, black smoke, paper flying through the air, a helicopter hovering near the tower. We could hear the distant sound of sirens.
Mom stopped folding clothes and just stared at the TV. Then it happened. We saw a plane come into the picture. It flew into the south tower. A fireball shot out the other side. The woman on the TV said “Oh My God.”
Mom screamed. She fumbled with her phone. Tried to call my dad, then my grandfather. Both of them at work in Manhattan.
Late that evening, my dad appeared at the back door. A cloud of soot seemed to hover near his head, every inch of his body covered with dust. He had a hollow look in his eyes, as though he’d been traumatized.
New York changed that day. The world changed. I guess I did too, for I can’t forget what I saw then or in the days that followed.
We were a different city then. People were kind. Selfless. Generous. Quick to volunteer, to help look for missing loved ones. American flags were taped to apartment windows. Flags flew on porches. In front of every storefront.
We all knew the future of our city was at stake. We tolerated inconvenience. We had empathy, sympathy. We honored heroes. Turned away from those that tried to divide us. Celebrated our spirit. Gathered a Yankee stadium. Prayed and sang hymns. Together we lifted out city off its knees.
Today we face a different crisis. 24,000 dead. Half a million without a job. Millions of renters facing eviction. Homeless living in the subways. Skyrocketing crime rates. Our City and State facing billion-dollar shortfalls.
We will not survive this if those in the political call resort to fomenting hate, hurling invective, pitting rich against poor, black against white, communities against cops.
Saving New York. Rebuilding New York will require the efforts of those who live here, and those who lead it.
I was born here. Raised here. It is a city I love, where I go to college, and live in a community I hope to represent on the City Council. Neighborhoods where I have served those suffering opioid addiction and victims of racial injustice. Delivered food to the hungry.
I want what we all want. A thriving economy. Schools where kids learn. Affordable rent. Safe subways. Safe streets. Better parks. Accessible healthcare.
And people in our city government who know how to lead.