City Council Members Remember 9/11

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Although the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 had a major national impact, City Council members of the Bronx recall how much it affected their own districts.

Many New York City elected officials were not even in their current positions when the unforgettable attacks hit the city 10 years ago, but after a decade, the affects of the tragic day still loom large.

With the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaching, City Council members representing the Bronx all agree that one of the most tragic days in United States history has in fact left a permanent impact on their constituents.

District 13 Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who at the time was district manager of Community Board 10, was opening up the district office on 3165 E. Tremont Avenue when a passerby relayed the news of the first plane striking the World Trade Center.

As the morning continued, the situation developed into something that nobody would have ever thought, he said.

“I think as a country, the attacks showed our vulnerability. Before then, a lot of people thought we were invincible and that we could never be attacked like that,” Vacca said. “At first we all just thought the plane hitting the first building was just an accident, but then it all just happened, and our whole community was worried. I felt everybody knew somebody knew someone that was working there that day.”

Vacca kept the CB 10 office opened through all hours of the night, turning it into a command center helping those concerned about their loved ones and collecting goods to send to Ground Zero to help.

Ten years later, no matter who you are, Vacca said the effects of 9/11 has had a lasting impression on everybody’s lives and always will.

“A lot of people take for granted how great it really is to live in this country,” Vacca said. “Here we are 10 years later and we all remember how serious that day was. We are all certainly more patriotic.”

Councilman Joel Rivera was the only Bronx City Council representative to be in elective office during the attacks of 9/11. At only 22 years old, Rivera was the youngest person ever to take be on the Council, winning a special election earlier that year to succeed his father, Assemblyman Jose Rivera.

That morning, which was also an election day in New York City, Rivera was greeting voters and supporters at P.S. 46 on 100 Clermont Avenue when a friend of his received a phone call notifying him of the first plane striking the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Rivera, along with his staff and volunteers, immediately returned to his District 15 office to receive updates on the attacks. At first, he said, nobody knew what to do.But a short time later, Rivera said the emotion began to kick-in very quickly.

“Fortunately, out of our group that day, nobody actually lost friends or loved ones, but it was chaotic and nobody slept for days as we figured out ways we could help,” said Rivera, whose nephew attended school near the World Trade Center at the time and had to walk home on the West Side Highway.

Rivera said his district has been thoroughly preparing special events for the upcoming 10th anniversary. In terms of the people who remember the day vividly and those who lost loved ones, he realizes that they will never be able to forget all that happened that day.

In preparation for the future, Rivera said we must teach the young children who do not remember or were not born to witness 9/11. By doing so, he believes it will preserve the day’s memory and help our future generation forever remember.

“The events of 9/11 need to stay in our school’s curriculum. Our youngsters should know what happened and know how tragic that day really was,” Rivera said. “Our constituents still cannot believe it has been 10 years already, but we are stronger, and we will never forget.”

District 18 Councilwoman Annabel Palma came into the City Council in January 2004, but as a lifelong resident of the Bronx, her emotions towards 9/11 has been equal to those of any New Yorker.

She acknowledges that residents of her district, the Bronx, New York City, and all over the United States, must use this 10th anniversary to continue to remember those who had their lives cut short during the terrorist attacks and use it as a tool to grow in peace with each other.

“While we remember the agony of the loss of many innocent lives, we take pride in the spirit of our people and of our country in times of tragedy,” Palma said.

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