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9/11 commemorations: in a resilient New York, victims still traumatized


Paul Veneto set out on foot from Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 21, toward the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan, pushing a flight crew drink cart. A former flight attendant, Paul was then a regular on flight 175, the very one that crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center. But twenty years ago, he had taken a day off. Long consumed by guilt, he decided to act in this 20e anniversary and to raise awareness with its 354-kilometer journey.

“It is a tribute to the crews who, in the end, were the first ‘first aid’, explains in a broken voice Michael, one of his two friends who came to welcome him to New York on Saturday, September 11. Because we often talk about the hostesses who fought on flight 93 with passengers and whose plane crashed [ce jour-là] in Pennsylvania, but the crews of the other three flights were bound to be heroic and protected the passengers at 37,000 feet above sea level. “

On this morning of the commemorations of the attack, on the Brooklyn Bridge, Tom and Michael take some photos while waiting for him. In the distance, behind Tom, rises the One World Trade Center, the 94-story “Freedom Tower”, the tallest tower in the United States, erected in 2006 just a few meters from the Memorial. The symbol of resilience par excellence.

Pilgrimage and communion

The bridge was also a strategic building on September 11, 2001: 500,000 New Yorkers had taken it, fleeing Manhattan, toxic fumes, the reverberated heat of burning concrete and clouds of ash. Across the East River, residents greeted them with water.

Paul is only 3 kilometers away; he will arrive in time for the tribute attended by Joe Biden, former presidents Clinton and Obama, and the three first ladies. The ceremony, which is not open to the public, required increased security on the southern tip of Manhattan. “We are focusing on the families of the victims”, says Clifford Chanin, the Memorial’s vice-president.

The emotion is still felt when approaching the barriers. There are a few onlookers, but especially many New Yorkers, who want to show their support for families and seek this communion at a time when the United States is no longer able to regain its unity. Alone or with their families, former victims have also made the trip; like Paul Veneto, they come on pilgrimage, return to the places of the attacks, as if they were magnetized, and, above all, still largely marked.

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