A mixture of concern and nostalgia in Central Harlem 10 years after 9/11

Posted on September 11, 2011


As the United States commemorates the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with a Memorial to honor the victims, emotions and perspectives in Central Harlem reflect the growing concern over safety in America as well as the nostalgia people feel over the incident.

Jaye Tasby, 31, a realtor from Texas now living in Central Harlem plans to go to the dedication ceremony on Sunday with his relatives.
“We’ve been watching a lot of footage over the weekend, and we will go to the park and take pictures,” he says.

For those with personal experience working in or around Ground Zero, the memorial has a deeper meaning.

“I feel like it’s a new beginning,” says Claude Wiggins, 62, who worked as a garbage man around the area when the attacks happened. Wiggins is now on social security and can still recall the odor from the burned structures; an odor he says still causes him to feel ill.
For Ken Gould who gave his age sixty-something, the dedication is also very personal. Gould works in Central Harlem as a fire and safety officer, but spent over four years working on the memorial as a general superintendent. He says he is happy to see it open.

“I feel good about it,” he says. “Its something that has to happen for America no matter how much it cost.”

Gould still wears his World Trade Center ID card around his neck and says he was there when the Pope visited the site in 2008. He also recalled seeing people from all over the world leaving flowers and trinkets around remnants of the original structure.

“I cried every time I went by it,” he said.

In contrast, others discussed the possibility of more threats.

“We shouldn’t feel safe,” said Kelvin Manzanet, 30, assistant dean at Future Leaders Institute in Harlem.

“I think the fear is still there; people wonder what will be the next target,” said Andy Jeolf, 41, a perfume vendor on 125th St. “I am not afraid, but to a certain extent, I am cautious and on the look out.”

His boss, Mustaqueem Abdul-Azeem,49, says this type of incident keeps the country on “pins and needles.”

“A lot of our civil liberties have been taken from us,” he said, “When they passed the Patriot Act, there are a lot of things that they can do that they needed a court order for.”

Abdul-Azeem is a Muslim, and is says there is nowhere in Islam that condones killing innocent people. He is also concerned that members of his faith who have done no wrong are being spied on.

“I understand the need,” he said. “But there must be a balance. The Patriot act allows me to lock you up just for you words, or to send someone who is an informant to coerce you to express anger.”

For Abraham Daniel, an artist known as the miracle kid in Central Harlem, 9/11 had a different meaning altogether.

“New Yorkers have a way of coming together when its real tough,” he said. “But when its not so tough we don’t get together, that’s really sad.”

The the smoke, he said that hovered over ground zero after the attacks, is like a cloud over New Yorkers. The cloud of doubt and separation that is still hovering over the city’s residents.

Posted in: 9/11