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Ground One:

Voices from Post-911 Chinatown

New York City and the nation were deeply affected by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But the attacks also had significant consequences on a more local scale: neighborhoods throughout New York City experienced profound changes that will shape their future for some time.

Located just ten blocks from Ground Zero, Chinatown is the largest residential area affected by 9/11. Much of the impact was strikingly visible. For eight days following the attack, for example, Chinatown south of Canal Street was a “frozen zone” in which all vehicular and non-residential pedestrian traffic was prohibited; and, for nearly two months, Chinatown residents and businesses were effectively isolated by the loss of telephone service. But much of 9/11’s impact on Chinatown was less evident.

To better understand the consequences of 9/11 on Chinatown and Chinese New Yorkers, the Museum of Chinese in the Americas partnered with the Columbia University Oral History Research Office (OHRO), the September 11 Digital Archive (911 DA) at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and New York University's Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program and Institute (A/P/A). “Ground One” aims to provide an in-depth portrait of the ways in which the identity of a community, largely neglected by national media following 9/11, has been indelibly shaped by that day.

Beginning in Fall 2003, “Ground One” interviewed 30 individuals who lived and worked in Manhattan’s Chinatown. The interviewees represented a diverse cross-section of Chinese Americans, including garment and restaurant workers, community activists, non-profit administrators, union organizers, healthcare and law professionals, senior citizens, and youth. Oral history was employed to understand how people perceived and responded to the tragic events of 9/11 in the context of their life histories. Several overarching themes were selected for this website: Personal Accounts of September 11th; Air Quality/ Health; Jobs, Language & Access; Garment Industry; 9/11 Relief; and Political and Civic Engagement. Presented here is an assemblage of voices from the perspective of a neighborhood just ten blocks away from Ground Zero.