September 11 - two years after

Ground Zero heute, Foto: CTK

Just two weeks before the second anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, a new video was released to the public reminding it of the shocking developments in New York City when two hijacked passenger planes were piloted into the World Trade Centre, leaving it crumbling with over three thousand dead. The video was shot by a Czech construction worker currently living in Queens, who unknowingly recorded the event while trying out his new video camera. It was an event that shook the whole world - psychologically but mainly economically. The past two years have seen security measures tightened all around the globe. The Czech Republic has spent billions of Czech crowns on its contribution to the fight against terrorism, especially in Middle Eastern countries such as Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Iraq. At home, security was increased around military bases, airports, nuclear power plants, and key buildings and institutions. Public and government calls to have the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) headquarters moved from Prague's city centre to a more remote location have also resulted in much debate. But now, two years after the 9/11 attacks, the fear of terror appears to have died down. RFE/RL will not be re-located for the time being due to a lack of funds from the US Congress and even in the Big Apple, everything seems to be back to "business as usual". Our correspondent Dean Vuletic is in New York City:

Ground zero today, photo: CTK
"Well, it is, of course a defining moment in the United States' recent past. New Yorkers experienced it so for them it is an extremely important day. But this year the commemorations are going to be much more low-key than they were last year. Last year was the first anniversary so there was perhaps more reason to mark the event more appropriately and intensely. Whereas this year will be more low-key and apparently the commemoration that will take place on the site of Ground Zero won't even be attended by US President George Bush but instead by Vice-President Dick Cheney."

What about security measures is there a fear of another September 11 attack?

"No, I don't think there is. But last month, as you all know, there was the blackout here in New York and in much of North-Eastern America and that did shake people somewhat. People have been telling me that they thought that was another terrorist attack or that it would provide terrorists with the opportunity to attack. So, people have been saying that they are still shaken up from the blackout and that this occasion brought back the memories of September 11, 2001, perhaps more so than the anniversary would. It's a city that's experienced a lot in recent years and that's also facing a lot of problems now. The effects of September 11 are still being felt in the economy and in the everyday lives of people. While there isn't a collective mourning as such, there's a lot of attention being given to the direct victims - to children who lost their parents, fire fighters who were caught up in the buildings who now have lung problems because of all the smoke they have inhaled and who have had to retire earlier than they would have otherwise, and of course to people who are injured, to the victims' families, and so on. So, think it really has gone from a sense of collective mourning to a sense of putting more attention and perhaps all the focus on those closest to the victims or those who survived."

How will the city commemorate the attacks?

Tributes to New York fire fighter Michael Ragusa, photo: CTK
"In the city of New York, most institutions, offices and so on will have their own way of commemorating September 11. Bells will be ringing at the times when the two planes hit the two towers, there will be events in schools commemorating the attacks and the victims. Fire stations, of course, will be paying their own tributes to the 343 New York fire fighters that died in the WTC attacks. And of course there will be services in churches as well. But one thing you notice when you walk around New York City these days is that there are memorials everywhere and that's possibly another reason why this year's commemoration will be much more low-key."

What about Ground zero? What does it look like today?

"Well, Ground Zero itself has been tidied up. It essentially looks like a construction site that construction has not yet begun on. But the site has definitely been cleared. So once some plans for a new building or collection of buildings are accepted and approved, construction can begin. Perhaps even more interesting is what has been done around the site. It really has become a tourist attraction and a memorial. Every day there are lots of tourists down there and many people go there to pay tribute to the victims who were there relatives or friends. So, the area around the site has been prepared to receive visitors. There is information on the World Trade Centre - when it was built and on its life - because it was around for twenty-eight years and it really did define that part of Manhattan but also all of New York. So when you go down there, there are viewing platforms, people leave notes behind and there is a list of the victims' names. So, it really is already a memorial and a place of tribute and contemplation. But, as you have most likely heard, there is a big debate going on about what should actually be done with the site. Daniel Liebeskind's plans for the site have been accepted but then they are still being very much debated. The victims' families do not necessarily agree with the architect or the developer on some issues, so it still remains to be seen what type of permanent memorial will be constructed at Ground Zero."