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Brooklyn Today for Sept. 12, 2012

Good morning. Today is the 256th day of the year. It’s been a long time since there were woods near Sheepshead Bay, but that’s where a kidnapped girl, Ellen Nagorsky of Midwood, was found by police, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of September 12, 1901. The girl was also described as having been nearly stung to death by mosquitoes. Police said they were closing in on the kidnappers.

Well-known people who were born today include singer Jennifer Hudson, country singer George Jones (“He Stopped Loving Her Today”), singer Maria Muldaur (“Midnight at the Oasis”), actor Joe Pantoliano (“The Sopranos,” “Risky Business”) and U.S Senator Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts).
 
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On the day following the anniversary of 9/11/2001, it could be interesting to look at Brooklyn's unique perspective on the tragic events of that day 11 years ago. It encompassed many things: proximity of our uniformed responder forces, who were among the first on the scene; the awful vista of Brooklyn’s Promenade and the views from Brooklyn Heights, where so many watched in horror, yet also in safety, while those observers in lower Manhattan were forced to flee; the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, which was closed to vehicular traffic and served as an escape route to so many thousands of pedestrians heading home — not only to Brooklyn but all parts of Long Island; finally, the smoke plumes which were driven by wind across Brooklyn long after the actual events of 9/11.

Among the memorable photographs from that day are those of ash-covered people fleeing on foot across Brooklyn Bridge, with huge plumes still hovering over lower Manhattan. The East River and its Great Bridge served as a buffer for Brooklyn, but to those survivors in lower Manhattan, who faced the tragedy up close, the bridge towers were beacons of escape. Indeed, in the days following the attack on World Trade Center, New York anti-terrorist forces also focused huge protective security on the Brooklyn Bridge itself, because of its value as a uniquely American icon.

Today, the day following somber ceremonial events to remember 9/11 on its eleventh anniversary, and the unbearable losses of those surviving families, we might also remember how fortunate we are to claim in name and historical pride the most beautiful bridge in the world. As author David McCullough has pointed out in interviews, it “still does its job” even as the world celebrates its classic beauty.

As Brooklyn prepares to celebrate its rich treasure trove of great writers in the upcoming annual Brooklyn Book Festival, we should be reminded that publisher Simon & Schuster released earlier this year a 40th Anniversary Edition of “The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge.” With a new preface by author David McCullough, who lived in Brooklyn Heights for several years , the book should be part of the personal libraries of anyone who lives in Brooklyn or feels a special connection to it.

As horribly memorable and dreaded as 9/11 was for the New Yorkers who were here to experience it, equally memorable on the other extreme — memorable and full of wonder — was the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883. Remember that the tallest structures on the horizon at that time were church steeples. Imagine the wonder of being up high on the walkway of something that was five or ten times taller than most of the city’s buildings at that time. May 23, 1883 is also a day we should always remember and celebrate. That was the official opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, a structure that symbolized a new age. It still stands and does it job every day. And it remains one of the most beautiful bridges in the world.
September 12, 2012 - 12:01am


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