Lower Manhattan is my hometown, so it is difficult for me to express briefly my many memories of September 11, 2001.
Standing outside my home and watching United Airlines Flight 175 strike the South Tower is forever etched in my memory as is the feeling of the ground shaking when the towers collapsed, as is the smell of the smoke that poisoned the air in my community for weeks.
I recall with pride the courage and the generosity of my community. Men and women, old and young, every race, color and culture working together amidst the chaos to comfort the families of the missing, to donate blood, and to provide relief to our valiant police, firefighters and rescue workers.
I had no access to my district office since it is so close to the World Trade Center. I procured a Winnebago — my temporary rolling district office — and toured Lower Manhattan handing out breathing masks and bottled water, and delivering meals, groceries and pharmaceuticals.
I remember my neighbor, a Hatzalah volunteer, who raced to Ground Zero in an emergency vehicle that had been dedicated to the memory of my parents. He was pulled from his ambulance moments before falling debris crushed it.
To this day, I remain in awe of the construction workers who cleared away the rubble in record time, declaring to the world our resolve to overcome. Like many Americans, I was heartened and uplifted by the way our community rallied and came together in a time of tragedy to help one another.
I will forever remember the sight of Lady Liberty standing tall in the harbor, holding up her torch as the toxic smoke swirled around her. This image and the many memories of my lower Manhattan community working together renewed my faith in America then, and are a continuing reminder that our true strength exists in the diversity and the character of our great people.
Born in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, Sheldon Silver has served as the Speaker of the New York State Assembly since 1994. Speaker Silver currently resides in Lower Manhattan with his family and serves the 64th Assembly District of NY.