Postcard Sales Reflect a City Moving On

Maybe New Yorkers are still arguing about whether, six years later, we've mourned 9/11 enough. But judging from the schlock tourists buy, our visitors have already moved on. For a few years after the attack here, you could hit souvenir stores throughout Manhattan and not find a postcard that accurately portrayed the post-terrorist skyline. Instead, WTC towers were everywhere, tall and pristine, as though nothing ever happened to them. They were phantom limbs on the out-of-towner psyche. But when New York visited a bunch of shops last week, it was almost impossible to find any cards or posters with the towers.

Long Island–based Alfred Mainzer, Inc., has been making post cards since the late thirties. Eric Schwarz, Alfred Mainzer's vice-president, says they produce 2 million a year, including many with New York City scenes. For a while after 9/11 there was a run on WTC images "like you wouldn't believe," Schwarz said. But during the past couple of years, demand has evaporated. "Accounts call and say, 'Don't send any more! They're sitting on the racks!'" So the company recently switched to images of the current skyline. Schwarz said they've still got a night shot of lower Manhattan with the Brooklyn Bridge in the foreground, taken before the Trade Center was ever built. They're thinking of rereleasing this card without getting noisy about the fact that it's almost four decades old. "You'd never know," Schwarz says. "It looks exactly like the skyline today. It's beautiful." —Debbie Nathan

Related: What if 9/11 Never Happened?