Columbia Grad School of Journalism Covers 2008 Service Nation Summit

Photo Credit - Joseph C. Lin Photo Credit - Alexandra Cheney

Welcome to Columbia Graduate School of Journalism's coverage of the 9/11/08 Obama-McCain Presidential Candidate's Forum on the Columbia University Campus.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Go Shopping

A block away from the World Trade Center site, where the names of 9/11 victims were being read aloud this morning, shoppers rifled through the racks of discount designer clothing looking for bargains at the popular Century 21 department store on Cortlandt St.

Some say shopping is therapy, but even if they wanted to be, customers couldn't be completely oblivious to the day's significance. Even Century 21 has its own version of a 9/11 memorial ceremony.

The store, which opens at 7:45 a.m., turned off the piped-in muzak at 8:46 and 9:03 a.m. for a moment of silence to mark the times the planes slammed into the nearby Twin Towers.

In a Sept. 20, 2001 address to a joint session of Congress, his first major speech after the attacks, President George W. Bush told Americans to go shopping in support of lower Manhattan and the national economy.

Seven years later, they still are.

More and more shoppers arrived at Century 21 throughout the morning, but the lines for the usually packed dressing rooms were nonexistent. It was typical morning traffic, said Iris Rodriguez, a supervisor on the third floor women's department.

Following the attacks, the discount designer department store was closed until Feb. 2002 but has been thriving since it re-opened, Rodriguez said.

"The first day back was really busy. They missed us," she said of the store's reopening.

Rodriguez, 54, has worked at Century 21 for 10 years and was there the day of the terrorist attacks but couldn't hear or see anything when the first plane hit. A customer who had just arrived by bus broke the news to the department store staff.

"I looked out the window and saw flames and papers falling everywhere," Rodriguez said.

The impact of the second plane hitting the South Tower rocked the department store.
"The second one, I felt that. That's when everyone said, 'This is not an accident,'" Rodriguez said.

The store was evacuated and Rodriguez began the long walk home to Ozone Park, finally arriving there at 3 p.m.

Seven years later, Rodriguez has never attended the nearby memorial ceremony, though she works a block away.

"Sometimes I just walk by," she said. "I feel like it's not my place because I was lucky."

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