A Decade Later, Port Chester Locals Reflect on How the World Has Changed

In Port Chester, locals have no shortage of opinions when it comes to the way the world has changed since Sept. 11, 2001.

Two wars. Countless foiled terror plots. The death of a terrorist mastermind. Uncountable memorial ceremonies. Long queues at airport security. Debates between security experts and civil libertarians.

A lot has happened since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

A decade later, the memories from that day are still sharp in the minds of people who live in Port Chester and surrounding towns. Locals have no shortage of opinions on the many ways the country has changed -- from the impact of two subsequent wars, to disagreements over a Ground Zero memorial, and everyday reminders at places like airports and Grand Central Station.

Diane Kanca of Rye is among those who think Americans should display a more defiant attitude toward terrorists and extremists.

“This event had the most impact on New Yorkers," Kanca said. “I would really have liked to see them rebuild the Twin Towers brick for brick. As an ‘up yours’ to the radical element."

For many, every Sept. 11 brings back a wave of emotions spurred on by images of the destruction: doomed victims leaping from skyscraper windows to their deaths, the dust-shrouded remains of the World Trade Center, and iconic images of rescue workers.

“Every year I watch the anniversary on T.V. and every year I cry. This one will be no different,“ said Anna Straface of Harrison.

Straface said she doesn't mind the long wait for a memorial or the disagreements over rebuilding.

“It’s positive what they are doing at Ground Zero,” she said, "but it will always be very upsetting.”

Others, such as Joan Giordan of Port Chester, believe the needs of people who lost loved ones take precedent when deciding on the rebuilding of Ground Zero.

“I was always iffy about what they should do with the site,” she said during a break from work. “I never understood why we needed the pools there. Why do we need symbolism for such a real and tragic event?” 

“But if it brings peace to those who lost someone, then I am 100% for it,” she said.

Perhaps the biggest shift in national attitudes can be measured in the ways every day life has changed since 2001. It was the first attack on civilians on American soil, and people everywhere were shocked. Since then, hardly anyone bats an eye when they're asked to remove their shoes at security checkpoints, police departments have transformed themselves with anti-terrorism training, and a constant stream of public safety messages warn people: "If you see something, say something."

Before 9/11, an abandoned bag on a subway platform wouldn't occasion comment. Now, it's enough to inspire panic.

“I pay a lot more attention to my own safety, and I am more aware of what is going on,” said Giordan “As far as what they are doing at the airports I have no problem with that. Mine, and the country’s safety comes first."

Most people say they don't mind a limited trade-off for the sake of keeping people safe. Although civil libertarians and lawmakers have argued where to draw the line, there's a general sense of "better safe than sorry."

“America is a more frightening place now,” Straface said. “I never thought we’d get hit before. I guess I was naïve like a lot of other people."

The terror attacks inspired some people to find jobs elsewhere, or move offices away from New York City. Port Chester's Isabel Leeds is among them.

“I was working at my office in Rockefeller Center when the towers came crashing down," Leeds said. "I had to consider what was at stake [and] 9/11 is one of the main reasons I moved my practice to Port Chester."

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