WE WILL REBUILD: 11/15/11 and 9/11/01
Occupy Wall Street was born in the shadow of the towers.
Go down the hill one block, as we often did to get to the free internet computers at Charlotte’s Place, and the construction site for the Freedom Tower is clearly visible. I would stop in the street and stare at it sometimes. It’s beautiful, awe-inspiring.
But it’s also a reminder. A friend of mine, a medic, told me she knew several people whose trauma around 9/11 was reactivated by staying at Zuccotti Park. Ground Zero, the footprint of the old towers, is right across the street. It’s been over a decade but the wounds don’t just go away. It’s hard to watch terrorists kill the people you love, destroy the places where you live and work.
It’s even harder when they do it a second time.
No one was killed on 11/15. But our homes were destroyed as we watched. For the homeless among us, it meant that much less security in their sleeping arrangements. (They’re currently being sheltered by various churches.) I wasn’t homeless, I had a rented room in Massachusetts to return to, but my spiritual home had been…damaged. I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt this way.
Now, this wasn’t the first time since 9/11 that New Yorkers were forced en masse from their homes. That’s been happening every day for years in slow motion, the weirdos and cranks and artists and musicians and straight up regular working class people forced out in favor of NYU trust fund babies, finance careerists, Richard Florida’s so-called “Creative Class” that isn’t really creative at all, just money with a thin veneer of hip. Whoever can pay the rents on the new astronomically priced condos. Williamsburg, Bushwick, LES, SoHa (South Harlem), SoBro (South Bronx), Hudson Heights (Washington Heights), Clinton (Hell’s Kitchen), et cetera. Jeremiah and others have chronicled the destruction.
Gentrification is one of the issues brought up at Occupy Wall Street. I remember one guy in particular, one of the people who gather out front at the top of Zuccotti Park facing outward, holding up their signs and engaging the general public in discussion. He told me about the racket that is Adult Protective Services, how it works in tandem with landlords to remove old people from their rent-controlled and rent-stabilized homes. For their own good of course, same as with the crazies.
On 11/15, Bloomberg did the same thing to us, with the same bullshit rationale and the same real object. Maybe he thought that if our model village at Zuccotti Park was taken away, we’d all quietly disappear. If he’d bothered to go down the hill one block and look up at the Freedom Tower construction site, he’d know better.
We are New Yorkers. We will rebuild.
Working group meetings are still going on every day at the Atrium at 60 Wall Street. I loved that place even before Occupy, back when my crappy day job was as a media researcher and later an executive assistant on Wall Street, loved the incongruous palm trees and the delis with their wonderful soup and muffins. Now it’s even better. General Assemblies are still going on at Zuccotti Park. Spokes Council meetings are still held at 56 Walker Street. People still meet up every day at the Tree of Life* to meditate. Even the kitchen has still been active, preparing a free Thanksgiving dinner for 3,000 at Zuccotti.
We will rebuild. Not just the encampment but the economy, the society. That’s what every disparate thread of the Occupy movement is about, in the end. It’s why we march for union jobs and against student debt enslavement, why we write to politicians demanding reform of the financial system, why we give people free food and first aid.
Our tents were taken from us. Our spiritual home was damaged, but it was not destroyed.
Somebody should tell Bloomberg and the other guardians of privilege that they can’t kill an idea, any more than Al-Qaeda could kill New York.
WE WILL REBUILD.
*The Tree of Life is the tree that the OWS multi-denominational altar space was built around, so called because it is the only tree downtown that survived the 9/11 attacks.