Downtown Rebirth: One Family's Choice to Stay in Lower Manhattan

By Andrew Siff
|  Thursday, Jun 16, 2011  |  Updated 12:55 PM EDT
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One Lower Manhattan couple was there when the towers fell 10 years ago, and they have stayed as the neighborhood has come back. Many Lower Manhattan residents are proud of the area's recovery since the attacks.

Andrew Siff

One Lower Manhattan couple was there when the towers fell 10 years ago, and they have stayed as the neighborhood has come back. Many Lower Manhattan residents are proud of the area's recovery since the attacks.

Tom and Catherine Hughes talked about leaving their Lower Manhattan neighborhood when it was covered by a dust cloud and reeked of burning rubble after Sept. 11.

But the family decided to stay, and nearly 10 years later, they live one block from ground zero and couldn't be happier about their choice.

"We really like living downtown," said Catherine Hughes, a member of Community Board 1 and a strong advocate for her neighborhood's Renaissance. "We were not going to let the terrorists or the bad guys win."

Tom Hughes, now a Wi-Fi developer, remembers taking pictures of the collapsed World Trade Center.

"It was an extraordinarily haunting scene, kind of a medieval scene," said Hughes.

The Hughes and their children, then 9 and 5, had to move out for a few months, because the air was difficult to breathe, and their block -- Broadway near Maiden Lane -- was inside the so-called "frozen zone."

When they returned in January 2002, "the phones were out, it was a ghost town," said Catherine Hughes. "At night people are used to seeing the large buildings lit up, but that's not the way they were."

They are now.

Long-stalled rebuilding on the 16-acre trade center site has taken shape, with the skyscraper known as 1 World Trade Center pushing past 70 floors.

The population, which had dropped from 20,000 to 10,000 the year after the attacks, has now tripled, according to Community Board 1. Nearby Tribeca became a hot ticket again for real estate. And in May, the death of Osama bin Laden seemed to bring the neighborhood full circle.

"Outside our window we could see President Obama laying the wreath at The Survivor Tree," said Catherine Hughes.

And their boys have sprouted up too: sons Philip and Matthew are now 19 and 15.

"Their childhood, they don't know anything else. It's just part of the fabric of growing up downtown," Tom Hughes said.

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