Khudeza Begum etches the name of her slain nephew during...

Khudeza Begum etches the name of her slain nephew during ceremonies for the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in lower Manhattan at the World Trade Center. (Sept. 11, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

The solemn ceremony that unfolds in Lower Manhattan Wednesday morning to honor the 9/11 dead is a time to grieve the loss of loved ones, to honor selfless acts of heroism, and to take stock as we march toward an uncertain future.

The good news is that the physical city is healing. The tower at 1 World Trade Center has topped out at 1,776 feet and should be completed in early 2014, and 4 World Trade Center is on track to open late this year. The long-awaited National September 11 Memorial & Museum is scheduled to open next spring.

When the construction fences come down around what is still called Ground Zero, the rebuilt World Trade Center site will at last bind Lower Manhattan together as a single cohesive neighborhood filled with renewed energy and growth -- including 311,000 workers, 60,000 residents and 11.5 million visitors a year.

Our resurgence says to the world that New Yorkers -- and Americans -- will not be defeated. But while the physical city heals, a disturbing sense of civic unease remains. In a world where terrorism is an undiminished threat, we are now left to debate an ugly trade-off between personal freedom and safety. We have some issues to resolve.

Where do the city's mayoral candidates stand on the matter of counterterrorism? NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly posed that question in a Manhattan speech on the eve of Primary Day. The threats to New York City "are as great -- if not greater" -- than before Sept. 11, 2001, he said.

The nation has been having this discussion for a while. Should the National Security Agency be allowed to track phone calls and email traffic? And in New York, should the NYPD be allowed to spy on mosques?

The candidates need to speak up. How much security is too much? Where does the balance between freedom and safety lie? Meanwhile, what does Kelly know that we need to know? These questions -- and others -- deserve sunlight and a vigorous public discussion. We must continue to recover and rebuild without losing our poise as Americans.


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