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Posts Tagged ‘9/11’

We have just witnessed the opening of the 9/11 memorial and museum at site of the destroyed World Trade Towers, an event that once more raises attention to how we Americans form our “collective memories.” (On collective memory, see here, here, here and here.) In a recent suggestive essay in the Journal of Social History, Stacy Otto argues that New Yorkers have mourned the 2001 tragedy as New Yorkers had mourned the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in 1911.

In the earlier disaster, with eerie similarities to 9/11, 146 garment workers, many of them women and children, died, often by jumping out of windows to escape the flames. Hundreds of people, unable to reach the victims trapped on the high floors, watched helplessly.

Public mourning of the two events nearly a century apart, Otto argues, was in sharp contrast to the “modern” styles of grieving – or avoiding grieving – that had evolved in the years in between the two tragedies.

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9/11 Reaction and Resilience

New demographic reports about New York City have firmed up an impression that any casual walker in the city can draw: Manhattan is booming – booming in business activity and in human activity. The Times summary reads, in part: “Two new studies show that downtown has become a magnet. Between 2000 and 2010 . . . the population within a two-mile radius of City Hall ballooned by nearly 40,000 people.”

And the new Manhattanites lean toward the young, educated and affluent, with many raising children in the heart of the city.

Eleven years ago, in the wake of 9/11, lots of expert observers thought that lower Manhattan – indeed, much of the city – was doomed by the shock, the disruption, and fears of further attacks to precipitous decline. (Who would want to be high up in an office tower ever again?) That this prognostication was wrong points to a more general observation: the extent to which we overestimate the social shock of dramatic events and underestimate social resilience.

(I write as Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the city. This, too, shall pass.)

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