A morning in lower Manhattan always remembered

Today, as 9/11 and its nearly three thousand victims are remembered, lower Manhattan has changed but much also remains the same. Where the twin towers used to stand is still a huge construction site and will continue to be for years.  But the view out over the water with the Statue of Liberty in the distance is as stunning as always. The marina over in Battery Park City is full of sailing boats, kids are playing, and people are enjoying the sun set. The dark and narrow streets around Wall Street are full of people as lower Manhattan today has many new residents.

That morning, ten years ago, our world at 80 John Street, where we then lived three blocks from what would become known as Ground Zero, came crashing down.

The morning had begun so brilliantly beautiful as my wife, our daughter and I were preparing us for an ordinary day in New York. Suddenly there was a big explosion, much larger than the usual noise on lower Manhattan. I rushed down and out on the street where people had gathered and stood and looked up at the sky up to the north twin tower that stood in the fire. A plane had run straight into the North Tower. How could it happen?

Chaos, confusion. Then another big explosion when the south tower was hit. This was no accident. Then, the unthinkable – the gigantic south tower simply fell, like a deck of cards, straight from the top down in a roar. A huge, dark mass of debris and smoke and dust rushed towards me like a dark wall on our narrow street. It got pitch-black . Coughing and shocked people filled our foyer. We couldn’t see and we could hardly breathe.

It did brighten somewhat before the north tower – again in an incredibly, almost simple way. We were swept back into the dust and smoke and complete darkness. Out on the street more and more people appeared. They came out of the smoke and dust and darkness from Ground Zero as from another world. Employees from the shops and residents provided protective masks and water bottles. Many had no idea where they were and how they could get away. Go north, north, we said and pointed.

By now, we had no electricity, no telephone. We started to pack the essentials and headed out on the street, covered with many inches dust and debris, away from Ground Zero and walked north. Soon we were out in the sun and the clear blue sky, but behind us, where the twin towers once stood, there was now emptiness.

It took over a week before we could return home. Life on John Street in lower Manhattan had changed. Several months after September 11, we walked around nervously, watching intently aircraft that flew over the town a little too low, flinching with any loud noise. A foul odor from the smoldering hole at Ground Zero followed us constantly.

In June, we moved up to the West Side of Manhattan, near the greenery of Central Park. It was no easy decision, but we needed to get away from the daily reminders of Ground Zero and a neighborhood that was going to be a gigantic construction site for years to come.

It’s been said that after 9/11, life will never be the same again. For us, that is certainly true.


What will Wall Street do tomorrow?

When Wall Street opens tomorrow, we will know how serious it regards Standard & Poor’s decision last Friday evening to downgrade the credit of the United States.

The decision, criticized by the U.S. Treasury, has dominated the political debate over the weekend, which has mainly been concerned with how the downgrade from AAA to AA+ will affect the U.S. economy’s recovery and if the risks of a new — “double-dip” — recession have increased.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” today that the U.S. economy actually has been improving, albeit slowly, and that the risks of a new recession much depend on what happens in Europe, now that Italy’s large economy exhibits such weakness. But no one, including Greenspan, has questioned if the U.S. can meet its obligations and the country’s treasury bonds are still the world’s most secure investment.

Warren Buffet said that if there was such a thing as an AAAA (four) rating, he would give the U.S. that grade, according to a nice summary by The Atlantic Wire of responses to the S & P’s decision. Much of the debate concerns Standard & Poor’s tarnished reputation after so many years ov giving the highest credit ratings to the subprime loans, which led to the real estate crash. Many in the debate question the S&P’s credibility after that debacle and now question its decision.

Robert Reich writes on his blog:

“Had Standard & Poor’s done its job over the last decade, today’s budget deficit would be far smaller and the nation’s future debt wouldn’t look so menacing. We’d all be better off had S&P done the job it was supposed to do, then. We’ve paid a hefty price for its nonfeasance. A pity S&P is not even doing its job now. We’ll be paying another hefty price for its malfeasance today.”

Ezra Klein writes on his Washington Post blog that “Standard & Poor’s did not just miss the bubble. They helped cause it,” and adds, “the credit-rating agency model is broken and, at times, dangerous, and investors need to pay less attention to their pronouncements.”

So, how will Wall Street react tomorrow to S&P’s downgrade? It is uncertain, but it’s important.