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New Yorkers still haunted by 9/11 after 20 years

CM 09/09/2021 1


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NEW YORK – For Molly Pascal, the memory of September 11, 2001, is a little more vivid than for most. Pascal was an advertising executive in her mid-20’s sitting at her desk on the 40th floor of a downtown Manhattan glass skyscraper when she witnessed the first plane, hijacked by the militant terrorist group al-Qaeda, slam into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. 
The impact left a broad, burning hole near the 80th floor of the 110-story tower, instantly killing hundreds of people and trapping hundreds more in higher floors.
“I have no memory of watching it on television, for me the memories are all live,” Pascal told The Jerusalem Post just ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attack. 

This week, the world marks 20 years since the United States experienced the worst terrorist attack in history on American soil. For New Yorkers who witnessed it firsthand, like Pascal, the painful memories are still fresh.
“It’s been 20 years, but it’s still hard to talk about,” she said. 
Pascal’s roommates, she recalled, worked in the towers. “I spent the time before the second tower fell frantically calling everyone to see if they were alive.”
“It felt like all of Manhattan was running north,” she recalled. “I called my parents telling them I was losing reception and didn’t know when we’d next talk. The image that stands out most to me was before the second tower fell, when there was just one standing on its own, symbolic of what was and what was about to be.” 
Eventually, Pascal and her roommates were reunited at their midtown apartment “bloody and without shoes.” 
Pascal remained in New York for another few years. She said the tragic day made her even more committed to being a New Yorker. “There was so much unity in those initial days,” she said.
But a decade later, she returned to her hometown – the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 
On October 27, 2018, her community was again the target of terrorism. This time, it was her synagogue, when a white supremacist gunman stormed the Tree of Life congregation, murdering 11 members.

A crowd attends a vigil outside the Tree of Life synagogue Tree of Life synagogue, marking one week since a deadly shooting there, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 3, 2018 (credit: ALAN FREED/REUTERS)A crowd attends a vigil outside the Tree of Life synagogue Tree of Life synagogue, marking one week since a deadly shooting there, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 3, 2018 (credit: ALAN FREED/REUTERS)

Pascal was not at services that morning; her brother and nephew arrived late and were outside at the time of the attack. 
Another terror act so close to home left Pascal reeling and reliving the trauma of September 11, she said.
 She credits the Jewish community for getting her through both catastrophes. 
“Both in [2001 and 2018], the events feel as if they happened so long ago, and also yesterday,” Pascal said. “They are both distant and fresh. In both cases, it was not so much faith in God that brought me comfort, but the Jewish community. Saying the prayer for healing together as a community, or kaddish, together provided a sense of solidarity and brought me comfort.” 
This week, ceremonies will be held across the United States to commemorate two decades since the 9/11 attacks and remember the 2,977 people killed. 
In New York, The Port Authority Police Department and the Consulate General of Israel held their joint gathering last Tuesday at the Ground Zero memorial, to mark the 20th Yahrzeit (anniversary of death in the Jewish calendar) of the victims who perished on 9/11.
Among the participants were Port Authority Police Superintendent Ed Cetnar; Acting Consul General of Israel in New York, Israel Nitzan; President at UJA-Federation of New York, Amy Bressman; Department Chief Emilio Gonzalez; Deputy Chief Gloria Frank; Inspector Steve Yablonsky; Lt. Scot Pomerantz; Lt. Thomas Michaels; Chief Deacon George Albin; and Port Authority Chaplain Mendy Carlebach, who led the event.
“That tragic and devastating day was an attack on the free world, democracy and the values we all hold so dear,” Nitzan said. “As terror and suffering continue to grow in this world, Israel and the United States must continue to join forces and fight hate and evil in our midst. We have come a long way and yet have long to go.” 
Cetnar said, “On behalf of all the men and women of the Port Authority Police Department, I thank you for this great honor and being with you. It means a lot to us because of the significance of everything that’s going on around the world. We continue to remember and we will never forget. The only other 9/11 memorial in the Middle East is in Israel. I’ve been there several times. I laid a wreath each time we were there. The honor and the opportunity to do such things has been great for us.”
Bressman added, “We will always stand with our community in New York and in Israel in good times and in crisis. Jewish tradition dictates that we remember and find purpose in tragedy – may we never forget our sacred obligation to strive together for a better tomorrow.”
For Shahar Azran, 52, the connection between Israel and New York was especially poignant in the aftermath of 9/11.
Azran, a photographer, had just celebrated his 10th anniversary of moving to Manhattan when 9/11 happened. On the Tuesday morning of the attacks, he was working on a photoshoot for Time Warner Cable in Queens, he recalled. 
“We heard something happened and all ran to the roof,” he said. “We saw smoke coming from the World Trade Center and I immediately starting photographing it with all different lenses.” 
“That’s when we saw the second plane hit,” he continued. “And then we saw the building collapse.” 
As the evacuation of the tower and its twin got underway, television cameras broadcasted live images of what initially was reported as a freak accident.
But having grown up in Israel, Azran said he knew right away that it was terrorism. 
“I remember seeing a lady tanning, a man wearing his headphones. And the smoke in the background. Americans just had no clue what was going on.” 
Just hours before the attack, Azran said he had a conversation with an Egyptian driver. The two men came to the conclusion that Americans wouldn’t really understand the Middle East until “something real happened.” 
“It was just shocking that I had spoken about the very same thing that morning,” he recalled.
After witnessing the second tower fall from afar, Azran said he hopped on the subway, camera in hand. While civilians ran away from ground zero, Azran got as close as he could to continue snapping photos. 
He described the next few weeks in New York City as strange. 
“We couldn’t open our apartment windows because the smell was so bad,” Azran said. But he never considered leaving Manhattan. 
“I remember going down to the hospital and seeing all the plastic bags, I asked what they were thinking there’s just no way they could all be body bags.”
“But it was the year 2001,” he continued. “Where was I going to go? It was a mess in Israel too.” 

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The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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