NATIONAL POST, WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2002
don’t know what I am, if not New York. Not myself, notmy sister, not my mother, or my father. Polish, Jewish, White Russian, Ashkenazi, Orthodox, immigrant, emi-grant, alien — those were my grandparents’ robes. But Inever knew my grandparents; not even all their names. Idon’t know what I am, if not New York.Twenty-ﬁve years in Toronto weathered that core of me not atall. I thought it might; there were times when I hoped it would.But I am still the boy at Coney Island, and last September only made it worth the more.Our New York was not the New York you foreigners dream of,the New York of taxis and Tavern on the Green and the Met andthe Oak Room at the Plaza.Our New York was the subway and the bus and the sidewalk;the Polo Grounds and the old Madison Square Garden; stickballand Johnny-on-the-Pony and Rockaway Beach, egg creams andhot pastrami and Italian kids chanting “Christ killers! Christkillers!” as our parents force-marched us to Hebrew school.Think of my sister on the blighted LL train at midnight, and my father and his brothers, seven days a week in their little Brooklyncandy store, and my mother in her fourth-ﬂoor kitchen,
53 yearsnow in the same apartment
. And that is our New York. What is it about, this being a New Yorker?It is working summers as a mailman out of FDR Station on3rd Avenue, and parking the truck on Fifth to cheer the astro-nauts just home from the moon. It is being in the house for Ali-Frazier, the ﬁrst time. And it is the millennium turning inTimes Square, and the confetti falling at midnight, and kissingmy sister full on the lips, and saying, this is our city.They schooled us well, we grandchildren of immigrants, to castaside the relics of the Old World and grasp this new New York asours. They taught us about the Roosevelts and Rockefellers,about Tammany Hall and peg-legged Peter Stuyvesant, as if it were the history of ourselves.
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‘Once the roar of the falling towers had ended ... it became clear that what madethis city a single thing — what gave it its metaphorical unity — wasn’t the asphalt and the steel and the rock beneath it all, it was the people’—
The New York Times
World’s greatest home town
They schooled us well. They taught us the history of this city as if it were the history of ourselves
Former National Postcolumnist Allen Abelgrew up in New York City. In the mid-1990s,after two decades in Toronto, he returned to his native Brooklyn to write a book,called Flatbush Odyssey: A Journey Through the Heart of Brooklyn, recently re-released. Abel was in New York visiting hismother last September 11, and in this essay, written especially for the National Post, he talks about his family's response to the terrorist attacks and their abiding love for their city.
From the top: People view Ground Zero from the observationdeck of the EmpireState Building onSept. 15, 2001, the first time it wasreopened after the twin towers col- lapsed; two visitors toCentral Park —caught in a suddenrainfall — make oneumbrella do doubleduty; a young couplein the city.
GUS POWELL / COURTESY OF ARIEL MEYEROWITZ GALLERY, NEW YORK VINCENT LAFORET / THE NEW YORK TIMESGUS POWELL / COURTESY OF ARIEL MEYEROWITZ GALLERY, NEW YORK