New York is an ideal. It is a symbol of the world's hope.
Let us stand together and persevere with the knowledge that cowards may topple buildings and take lives, but they can never crush the American spirit.
These words were part of the speech I delivered at a joint legislative session two days after the September 11th attacks.
As I stand here … looking out upon the faces of a community that DID NOT give up … did NOT run away and never come back DESPITE enduring the most devastating terrorist attack in our nation's history ……
I am proud to see the New York Ideal RE-AFFIRMED this evening … and I am OVERJOYED that the American spirit is thriving in our beloved and historic community …
A community that has nurtured the hopes and aspirations of countless immigrant generations …
A community that will continue to serve as the gateway to freedom, Democracy and opportunity for immigrant generations to come.
From the sheer awe of seeing United Airlines Flight 175 bring down the South Tower … to the unbearable grief of loved ones lost and not recovered ……
From the breathtaking heroism of the firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and ordinary citizens who raced into the towers to save lives only to sacrifice their own ……
To the infuriating struggle to instill in government a sense of the moral obligation to rebuild Lower Manhattan and to care for those whose health has been compromised by their exposure to September 11th toxins ……
It is difficult for me to express simply or briefly the totality of my September 11th experience.
Honestly … how do I put into words the experience of witnessing - from the windows of my home - the decimation of the community where I was born and raised, a community that has given me so much?
Setting aside the painful memories and the recriminations … there are some snapshots of September 11th that I keep in my mind and in my heart at all times.
I remember the immense courage and generosity of my community …
Men and women, old and young … every race, every color, every creed …
Outside in the smoke … in the dark … trying to comfort the families of the missing … providing whatever relief you could to the rescue and recovery workers handing out water, snacks, and air masks.
I think about the teachers … moving eight THOUSAND children, some as young as four-years-old, some with disabilities, through the war zone … and not losing a child or allowing a single one of their students to get hurt.
I think about our health care professionals … some staying on duty, some racing in to their hospitals … to treat the wave of injured that never came.
AND ALL OF YOU taking action never considering, never concerned that more attacks might be coming.
I remember touring the streets of my community in a high-tech Winnebago - a rolling district office, if you will - that contained relief supplies and staff.
We handed out breathing masks and bottled water. We delivered meals.
We kept people informed and took their problems to the appropriate government agencies.
We provided them access to their apartments and cars … helped them deal with their insurance companies … helped them obtain essential documents.
We set up an "800" telephone number in Albany where residents could call for help. We provided cell phones for residents to make important calls.
I remember a young man who could not reach his elderly parents who were living in the Southgate Towers. He called the 800-number. His call was patched to my mobile office. We drove to his parents home and gave them a cell phone, so that they could finally talk to their son.
It was an extraordinary challenge, and perhaps, the most rewarding of my public life.
Any recollection of September 11th, must absolutely include those who risked and those who gave their lives during the rescue effort.
I remember a young man … a neighbor of mine … a Hatzalah volunteer ambulance driver by the name of Naftali Solomon.
He came to Ground Zero to save lives and was pulled from his ambulance shortly before it was crushed by falling metal and stone.
Just three months earlier, that very ambulance had been dedicated to the memory of my parents.
Less than nine months later, June 6th of 2002, representatives of the Southeast Louisiana Electric Membership Corporation traveled to my Assembly Office in Manhattan, and presented the Hatzalah volunteer ambulance corps with a new ambulance.
In almost every speech I have given regarding September 11th, I have spoken of the incredible clean-up effort performed by the Operating Engineers, the Ironworkers, and other laborers from the construction trades.
They would not let the rubble and debris become a lasting reminder of the pain we had endured. They worked around the clock and cleaned the site in what can only be described as world-record time. It was an inspirational feat that I will never forget.
I will always remember the memorial services and the tremendous outpouring of sympathy and respect:
The first anniversary and the reading of the names of the deceased;
The large service in honor of the 658 employees of Cantor Fitzgerald who lost their lives in One World Trade;
The small service for Officer Robert Foti, who gave his life in the line of duty and in whose honor a Manhattan street was named.
And along with the solemn services, I will remember the many times we celebrated the companies, large and small, that returned to Downtown, or that relocated to Lower Manhattan to be a part of the renaissance.
They brought hope of better days to come.
I will always remember the many community leaders with whom I have worked and continue to work to rebuild and revitalize our precious community:
Julie Menin … Bob Townley … Virginia Kee … Chris Kui … and so many other dedicated and generous leaders, too numerous to mention.
But if there is one memory, one snapshot, that I keep with me at all times, it is the image of Lady Liberty … standing tall … holding up the torch … through the darkness and the smoke that emanated from the destruction of the World Trade Center.
It is that memory that continually reminds me that the strength and the glory of our community is found in the diversity and the greatness of our people.
New York cannot be stopped. New York cannot be destroyed.
New York is an ideal. It is a symbol of the world's hope.
Let us stand together and persevere with the knowledge that cowards may topple buildings and take lives, but they can never crush our American spirit.
Thank you … and may G-d bless New York.