Editor’s Note: One in a series of stories related to the 20th anniversary of September 11.

It seemed like a small thing, stopping for a yellow light. But it may have made all the difference for Jane Rosenthal on the morning of September 11, 2001. Her car was a block and a half from the Twin Towers when the first plane hit. The CEO of Tribeca Enterprises was heading for work, but managed to turn around and get into town. “I was wearing shoes you couldn’t run in, heels. This was the last time I wore shoes and didn’t take sneakers with me. I am always aware that you might need to run.

About 30e Street on the East Side, she said, “I was standing in line outside a phone booth. It was the last time I stood in line at a pay phone and used a pay phone.

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There was no cell signal, recalled Jeff Sine, co-founder and partner of investment banking Raine Group, who had just been hired to head the technology, media and telecommunications bank at UBS. He was having lunch with a friend in the city center and when he got out, “the world had changed,” he said. He managed to connect with a colleague. Her husband was a police detective, and Sine spent days with him and a few other cops on support runs – “moving to places to pick up whatever emergency responders needed,” from fresh fruit to ice cream. by the sweatpants.

He recalled the huge Chelsea Piers complex at 23rd The street and the Hudson River as a crowded donation staging area and its ice ring transformed into a makeshift morgue and grim empty triage area. It was one of the horrors of the 9/11 attacks, there weren’t as many bodies or wounded to treat as one might have thought – people came out of towers on fire or in time or they didn’t. have not.

Joe Amodei, CEO of Virgil Films, was then working at USA Films and was at the Toronto Film Festival like many members of the independent community when the towers fell. He cried when he first saw the smoldering carcasses in lower Manhattan after finally making his way back to New York City by train a few days later. The United States adopted the idea of ​​donating 100 films and a new video recorder to every fire station in every borough. The studios all cooperated. “On November 11, we delivered 162 fire stations,” he said. “The very last station was 8e Avenue around the 52nd. Normally the firefighters would assemble. It was different. The man who opened the door said, “We have lost the whole house. “

Tribeca Film Festival

That month, Rosenthal and his partner Robert De Niro decided to organize a film festival to help the still smoky and pungent smelling neighborhood where everyone was in shock and no one wanted to come. “It was really dark. You didn’t know what you were breathing, ”she said. “Bob and I had talked about doing a film festival before… I called him up and said, ‘We have to get people downtown.’ We announced it a week later.

In the spring of 2001, she had worked in the production About a boy. “So I knew that for the first film, I could have About a boy. I knew I had a movie. I had no idea [other] films, and activations, and [were] us a competitive festival. It was about bringing people back to the city center. If I could bring 100,000 people, everything would be fine with the world. I was obsessed with it. Bob was obsessed with it. Bring everyone together, give people a sense of hope, something to look forward to. “

She said she wouldn’t have believed then if “you would have told me that 20 years later I would still be talking about our impact on our community and having the bookends that we had” with Covid.

What emerged from September 11 is so complicated. The human toll, the financial toll, the destruction and rebirth of part of the city. Families and first responders who worked without masks and other protection suffered lasting consequences. But September 11 was geographically contained, the economic recovery relatively rapid and successful. Banks that had dominated the Financial District made way for apartment buildings and cafes, accelerating the neighborhood’s transformation into a more residential neighborhood and a hub for media, technology and the arts from Conde Nast to Spotify. via the future Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center.

The boom was captured in a report from the New York State Comptroller, dated 2016, but still widely cited, showing that lower Manhattan’s population more than doubled from 22,700 in 2000 to 49,000 in 2014. The number of residential housing units has also doubled, as has the number of small businesses like dry cleaners. The financial sector accounted for more than half of the region’s jobs in 2000, but fell to a third in 2015. Banks sent chunks of their business elsewhere, in part to create “layoffs” when it became a best practice required after September 9. 11 so that all children of organizations have data centers in geographically dispersed locations.

The so-called war on terror has been launched, with a milestone last month when US troops finally left Afghanistan after 20 years. Airport Security Enhanced With Long Lines, 3 oz. vouchers for bottles, belts and shoes. There was a strong sense of national unity, but also stereotypes about Arabs and American Arabs and the rise of 9/11 conspiracy theories which today sound like an early echo of QAnon. (Spike Lee has just excised part of the last chapter of his NYC Epicentres 11 / 9-2021½ docuseries on HBO which features interviews with individuals and groups who believe the Twin Towers were brought down via a controlled explosion as part of a larger plot.)

Imagery of 9/11, collapsing towers, fleeing dust-covered crowds, firefighters rushing into the towers, first responders struggling atop a monumental pile of rubble and twisted metal in the heat and smoke, are etched in the national psyche and still powerful – a difference from the current crisis. “There are images that will become iconic for Covid, but it’s mostly emergency rooms and people on ventilators,” said Ed Arentz, founder and co-chairman of Greenwich Entertainment. In 2001, he was a founding partner of the newly formed film distributor, Empire Pictures, and the programmer of the Cinema Village movie theater.

His office was on the 78th floor of the Empire State Building. “It became a huge deal, as it was seen as a potential secondary target, so access to security was quite elaborate and took a long time.”

“We stayed away for a little while, but the virtual job was not as easy as it is today,” he said.

Cinema Village was open but attendance “non-existent”. (The New York Stock Exchange closed for four days, its longest shutdown since 1933. Broadway suspended performances for two days but performed in largely empty houses for a while.)

“It was our first remote script,” said Tom Bernard, co-founder and co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment. “The second was the Sony hacking [a massive 2014 data leak by a group identifying itself as Guardians of Peace]. The third was Covid.

Arentz and Bernard were also in Toronto on September 11, but managed to find cars and get home fairly quickly. Bernard said the Canadian hockey equipment he had in the backseat helped the guards cross the border.

New York Recovery

The sheer ease of working remotely is now fueling concerns about New York’s recovery. The population that had built up in Lower Manhattan as well as residents across the city have dispersed over the past 18 months. Attracting them in return is crucial. There, the turmoil, tax revenue, and the need to support a massive ecosystem of services and small businesses that depend on offices that have been slow to reopen – delayed more recently by a wave of the fast-spreading Delta variant.

At one point in the summer, before Delta took hold, recovery seemed within reach. But Covid is a much longer task than anyone imagined and the outcome for the city is still uncertain.

“I hope we get through this as an industry. Things were opening up again, ”Amodei said. However, “I don’t know if I feel the same today [as I did then] that the city will one day return to normal after Covid. “

“I am worried about New York,” Rosenthal said. But, what is more worrying is that “what is happening in New York, and our political system and all of our great institutions that we believe in for our democracy, are being challenged in many ways. I fear more for this than for the virus. The virus will be science and medicine. “

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