How One World Trade slaps Ground Zero neighbors in the face

OPINION – Jess Coleman NY Post

I cannot think of a better way for my family — which was displaced for a year following the 9/11 attacks — to overcome that harrowing day 14 years ago than to raise a glass 1,250 feet above our revived community and say “cheers.”

Officials from the Durst Organization give a preview of the 1 World Observatory site on April 12, 2013.Photo: Getty Images

Officials from the Durst Organization give a preview of the 1 World Observatory site on April 12, 2013.Photo: Getty Images

But forget it: As the One World Trade Center Observatory opened over the weekend, we were notified it would cost our family of four $128 just to take the elevator.

The $32-per-head charge to reach the top of the tower includes nothing — not a drink or an appetizer — besides a chance to sit down at the café or restaurant and look out a window.

As unfortunate as that is for typical visitors, because free admission is limited only to family members of those who died on 9/11, as well as those who worked in the rescue and recovery, my family will be stuck paying the charge just like everyone else.

But just because we’re alive doesn’t mean we weren’t victims.

I don’t mean to sound cheap or draw an opportunistic equivalence between the lucky families like mine and those torn apart by loss. Of course, no one recognizes more than my family how lucky we were on 9/11.

Our apartment, just across West Street from Ground Zero, was inundated with dust. We had to get rid of everything we owned, and our neighborhood became a ghost town.

We were refugees, forced to live in a friend’s house and follow our twice-relocated school until moving upstate for the remainder of the school year. Most people from our community left for good, but we returned, stained and battered — yet grateful to be alive and to have each other.

Since then, we’ve felt so lucky that we’ve looked the other way as we’ve been consistently forgotten and excluded. Every year, the ceremony at Ground Zero for the fallen victims has ignored us.

When the memorial and museum opened, victims’ families were rightfully given a first-hand look, but we were forced to pay the fee and wait in a line of thousands of tourists. And now, in order to finally triumph with a trip to the top of the new tower, we will need to dig deep into our pockets.

To be clear: What I went through was not even a fraction of the suffering by those who lost members of their family on that sunny September morning. This is a point so obvious it shouldn’t need to be said.

But I also can’t fathom how someone like me isn’t deemed a “victim.” I was 7 years old when I watched a fiery north tower descend toward the sidewalks I walked every day.

For years, I was plagued by nightmares and sleeplessness, and the trauma of that day has never fully disappeared.

In addition, my family has had to endure the decade-long battle to even see the observatory come to fruition.

Our community has been torn apart by years of bickering over plans, construction and media attention.

To this day, I can’t leave my neighborhood without dodging construction and tourists, knowing that I can expect to encounter bomb-sniffing dogs and machine guns on my way to the subway.

My mom, dad, brother and I deserve to take a trip to the top of the tower we watched grow day-in and day-out for 10 years without feeling like tourists.

We deserve a chance to look down and see our rebuilt community in one frame. We deserve a chance to climb back to the top of a tower we watched rise over our home.

It’s bad enough that many of the current residents of Battery Park City — who gained nothing from the construction of a tower and tremendous memorial that failed miserably to take into account the needs of the community — will be priced out of the observatory.

It’s even worse that the same will occur for people who resided in the community when the attacks actually occurred.

I call on Legends, the operator of the observatory, to issue a free pass to anyone who can prove — through a lease, electric bill, etc. — that he or she was a resident of Battery Park City, Tribeca or the Financial District at the time of the attacks.

The attacks hit these people very close to home, quite literally — and yes, they, too, were victims.

For years, my frustration has been tempered by the fact that I’m able to tell the story of this horrific attack from the perspective of a survivor. But the observatory shouldn’t treat me like a spectator to my own story.


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