This past week has been a busy one for the people of New York City. Tuesday marked the 17th anniversary of 9/11, Wednesday marked the end of Rosh Hashanah for the over 1 million Jew’s residing in New York City, and Thursday saw the conclusion of the primary election season for Governor and State legislature for the state of New York. As someone who just moved to New York City four weeks ago, I had little connection to Rosh Hashanah and the primary election between incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo and Sex in The City star Cynthia Nixon. However, 9/11 was different; everyone myself included should be able to empathize with the loss that occurred on September 11th. Tuesday was a serious day for New York City and it was interesting to observe how faith communities across the city reacted to the day.
Walking around the 9/11 memorial and the new World Trade Center in between classes I was struck by just how many religious groups were around. The anniversary of September 11th brings a diverse range of people out of the woodwork. Jehovah’s Witnesses stood on every block within a 10 block radius of the World Trade Center handing out pamphlets about human suffering, street preachers with megaphones shouted about the second coming of Christ, and a Mennonite Choir filled Zuccotti Park with hymns. Simultaneously, Westboro Baptist Church protested across from the memorial holdings signs about God’s wrath being poured out on New York City through 9/11. Walking through the swaths of people was a surreal experience. Although the memorial service held at the World Trade Center was restricted to family members of victims only, I was invited to attend a memorial service at St. Paul’s Cathedral at 11 am on September 11th.
The service consisted of several scripture readings by the Vicar of St. Paul’s and old hymns. Sitting in the balcony with other King’s College students I was struck by how so many people could be brought together to remember 9/11. Ordinarily, the busy New Yorkers seated on the pews beneath me wouldn’t stop on the street long enough to say hello to each other but today they were sitting, talking, and singing hymns together. It’s amazing to me to think about how all of New York City seemed to slow down and take a moment to reflect on the value of life that morning.
September 11th ended with my roommates and I viewing the 9/11 memorial lights from our apartment rooftop, a powerful way to end an important day. The rest of the week went as planned, including the fact that Andrew Cuomo beat Cynthia Nixon. If I learned anything from spending the anniversary of September 11th in New York it’s that tragic events have a way of bringing people together the way very few things can and in a city like New York it’s important to remind ourselves that more connects us than divides us.