A version of this essay by SmallBusiness.com founder Rex Hammock first appeared on SmallBusiness.com on September 11, 2014.
In addition to the emotional responses we all experienced while watching the horror of 9/11/2001 unfold, I, like many small business owners, was overwhelmed with sympathy for the hundreds of small business owners and their employees whose companies, shops and restaurants were inside and in the shadow of the Twin Towers.
Photos like the iconic one showing people fleeing the area — running by small shops and eateries — have stuck with me as vividly as the more graphic and horrid shots from that day.
As a tourist and for business purposes, I had been in the Twin Towers several times before 2001, but other than the towers and Wall Street, I was not familiar with the surrounding neighborhood.
Today, I have a daughter who lives near the 9/11 Memorial Plaza and I have spent many days during the past decade walking throughout a neighborhood that has risen from ashes to become an awe-inspiring tribute to those who died that day; and to the resilience of New York City, the region and the nation.
The photo on the right was shot at about the same location as the 2001 photo (using Google Maps’ Street View). It captures the vibrancy you’ll feel today among the shops located in what is a far more trendy neighborhood than it was before 9/11. (Something true of neighborhoods throughout New York City.)
Small business owners and their employees helped revive the neighborhood before the trendy chains started moving into the area. Like in other areas of Manhattan, these small merchants are discovering that higher rents are making it harder and harder to survive.
To me, the men and women who returned first to the neighborhood are small business heroes. While others travel from around the world to shop at famous stores that now have locations in lower Manhattan, I always make it a point to support the shops that once existed in the shadow of the Twin Towers.
Unfortunately, these shops are becoming harder and harder to find as rents increase and commercial real estate in the blocks around the 9/11 memorial becomes more and more expensive.
Too many of them became forgotten victims of that day.