We’re all familiar with what happened immediately after teams of al-Qaeda terrorists steered two Boeing 767 planes into the Twin Towers. There was the stinking wreckage that smoldered for months as rescuers and workers picked through the pile, and the checkpoints that barred access, first south of 14th Street, then south of Canal, gradually migrating and coalescing to form buffer zones around Ground Zero and other key locations downtown. It was clear on September 11th, 2001 that nothing would be the same going forward, but not how things would change.
As the weeks stretched into months and George W. Bush cooked up two wars and a color-coded threat level-ometer, daily life in lower Manhattan gradually resumed, the mourning and trauma not leaving, but moving into the background. Within a year, it had become obvious to residents and workers in lower Manhattan that the warren of police barricades, roadblocks, and guard booths they had to navigate each day was there to stay. Now, 15 years after 9/11, 31 blocks of downtown, including formerly crucial connectors to the rest of the city, are still blocked to car traffic and remain a heavily policed gauntlet for pedestrians, if people on foot are allowed to pass at all.