Last weekend was not the first time I'd been back to New York since 9/11, but I was still struck (again) by the difference in the skyline. The ethereal outlines of the missing Twin Towers were, however, the only lingering reminder of that day eight years ago, at least to a visitor. Someone who hadn't spent much time in New York, who hadn't spent summers catching tadpoles in ponds at one of Queens' many cemeteries, who hadn't learned to ride a bike without training wheels over Glendale's shitty sidewalks, who wouldn't recognize instantly the taste of NYC tap water, might not even notice any difference at all, unless they walked by that place commonly called Ground Zero.

Which is not to suggest that life doesn't break down into before 9/11 and after 9/11 for many, or most, residents of the city—especially those who lost friends and family members in the attack, or in the rescue, or are losing them now because of dirty lungs and strange cancers. But that private pain is not something the people of New York share with the rest of us unbidden.

What they share with the rest of us is the open face and strong embrace of a city that wouldn't be felled by terror. Terrorism is a tactic, a strategy which can only win if its targets succumb to fear. And New York said: Fuck that.

In a way, ironically, that much of the rest of the country, who were not left with the smell of burning rubble in their noses, did not.

Of course, much of the rest of the country also doesn't understand that the people of New York City are patriots of a sort most of us don't have cause to be, and the city, with Lady Liberty standing in its harbor, eternally lifting her torch to the skies, is a damn patriotic town. It is a quintessentially American town, and I feel the force of our history—our industry, our art, our architecture, our people, our wealth, our bigotry, our freedom, our potential, our narrow cobblestone roads that became thrilling and infuriating and beautiful and disastrous multi-lane clusterfucks of cars, trucks, bikes, rickshaws, horses, and pedestrians—when I walk its streets. I feel life.

That is a testament to the people of New York who live it, who turn every day lived well into a day that remembers 9/11.

Today we also honor the victims and survivors of the crashes at the Pentagon and in Shanksvile, Pennsylvania. In April, President Barack Obama signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which recognizes September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.

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