Photo by James and Karla Murray

16 years ago, I heard through my sleep in the early morning that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I thought I was dreaming. When I woke up in my dorm room, I had a flurry of messages from friends checking in. My parents had an apartment in Battery Park City. It took hours to get through to them. A friend told me he watched the towers fall from his dorm at Columbia.

It is undeniable that the New York City we live in today is a direct descendant of 9/11. The way it looks, the way we live. Any New Yorker will take a pause when we see a fire in the skyline, hear a plane that seems too close to earth. 

Photo by James and Karla Murray

Many people say that the city is losing its soul. Maybe, but it also desperately tried to rebuild after 9/11 – shinier and seemingly more bullet proof than ever. Almost two decades after, we now live with the repercussions of those decisions. Who is the city for now? What did we sacrifice in the rush? Will the younger generation know what 9/11 was like? Can the city still welcome the dreamers and changemakers that made us love it in the first place? NYC was always about the push and pull between past and present, but that became even more dichotomous after 9/11.

Here’s to my city. The one I dreamed of crossing the Queensborough and Triborough every Friday evening starting when I was 10 years old, lived in starting when I was 13, and the one I made home at 22. I have known some of its many sides but I will never know it all, for that is its magic.

Next, check out what it looks like behind the scenes to light the Tribute in Light each year.