SEPTEMBER 11: ONE YEAR ON: Atlantic Overture; on the First Anniversary of the September 11 Attacks, David Charters Pays Tribute to the Two Great Cities of the Atlantic, New York and Liverpool, Linked Forever by History, Music, Fine Buildings and the Promise of Tomorrow

Article excerpt

Byline: David Charters

THE dream came first, scattering its seeds across the cobbled quays of the growing port. And the seeds were the people from many lands, separated by their gods, their costumes and their languages.

But they were bonded as one in their desire to cast off the old ways and to reach together in faith for a new beginning, free from fear and hunger and persecution.

Yes, it was a dream, the biggest the world had ever known.

And it has given the great Atlantic cities of Liverpool and New York a common heritage, which matured into a culture of history, humour and song that can never be broken.

Both were havens for the dispossessed. Both gave those dispossessed people a place in the world and a sense of belonging. And the people from the two ports, who had seen so much, became tough, proud, quicktongued, at once cynical and sentimental. This set them aside from the mainstream of their countries, making them entertaining, a little arrogant maybe, defiant, wary of authority; and always conscious of what went before, those memories left in the lands of their ancestors.

To be a New Yorker or to be a Liverpudlian is to be different. Perhaps their citizens have more in common with each other than they do with their fellow countrymen.

So today, when the world remembers those who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center, emotions distilled in an ancestral understanding, as well as natural affection and sympathy, will cross 3,500 miles of turbulent ocean from Liverpool to New York.

Since that deed of evil, the links have been even stronger.

Our firefighters have joined their brothers in New York at the site of Ground Zero, linking arms over the place where it happened and where nothing is left, except the spirit of the people.

The mood of our tourists, going to see the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Buildings, Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center, is a little more sombre these days, respecting the feelings of a people who have demonstrated an almost British resilience in the face of adversity.

And when they come here, contemplating their past, to see the cathedrals, the haunts of the Beatles and the grand old buildings, they know they are being greeted by friends.

These are the people whose ancestors knew the smell of the fruit in crates on the waterfront, whose hands were burned by the same ropes secured to the stages at either end of the great voyage.

Now these ties established in friendship are to be made official. Mike Storey, leader of Liverpool City Council, said yesterday that arrangements are being made for the cities to be formally twinned. All 8m New Yorkers are also to be given the freedom of Liverpool. A date for the ceremony is to be announced.

In the telephone directory, the names of people from distant lands are listed in alphabetical order - Isaacs, Jones, Karpinski, McNair, Mohamed, Offerman, O'Reilly, Rodriguez, Rossi, Weinberg, Woo.

Their forebears came to Liverpool and New York with hope in an ideal. Many settled in our city, moving from the cellars and lodging houses on the Mersey waterfront.

Others awaited a Yankee clipper, or in later years a steam ship, to carry them to the promised land. It is estimated that, in the 100 years from 1840, more than 9m people left Liverpool for New York, making homes in the five boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

Manhattan Island had been bought in 1626 from the native Americans by the Dutch West India Company, which founded New Amsterdam. Thirty eight years later, the British took the colony, renaming it New York. So began the modern history of acity, inextricably linked to Liverpool.

It took about six weeks for a sailing craft to cross the ocean, if the weather permitted. The advent of steam changed that. …