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What If 9/11 Never Happened?

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NEW YORK WOULD BE UNRECOGNIZABLE
Tom Wolfe
novelist

9/11 Five Years Later

The New York real-estate market would have become so hot, hot, hot that by now developers would be converting grand old hotels such as the Westbury, the Stanhope, the Mayfair, perhaps even the Plaza, into condominium apartments selling for $10 million and up. By now a socialite would be any young woman who has appeared in three or more party pictures taken by Patrick McMullan for any of a dozen or so fat party-picture magazines. A local music genre called hip-hop, created by black homeboys in the South Bronx, would have swept the country, topping the charts and creating a hip-hop look featuring baggy jeans with the crotch hanging down to the knees that would have spread far and wide among white teenagers—awed, stunned, as they were, by the hip-hop musicians’ new form of competition: assassinating each other periodically. How cool would that have been? Two historic pillars of the New York economy—shipping and garment manufacturing—would have vanished by now. There would be 40 empty piers on the Hudson River, and the only shipping would be an intrepid but decrepit aircraft carrier welded to a dock and turned into a museum. Meanwhile, a little known Asian country called Bangladesh would be manufacturing more clothes for the American market than Manhattan’s West Twenties, West Thirties, and Chinatown put together. Latins today would make up 40 percent of the city’s public school population, easily outnumbering black students (35 percent), while the white component would have declined still further (15 percent). The big news, however, would be the surge in the number of Asian students, which might have rocketed upward by as much as 10 percent a year. The city would have had two Republican mayors in a row for the first time in modern history. There are no silver linings in 9/11, and it is no consolation to say that at least we didn’t wind up with a senseless, baffling, flotsam city like that.


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