Ten years ago, Edwin De La Rosa was a 17-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y. based street rider, just starting to make waves on the BMX scene following features in Dig BMX Magazine, and video parts in the first Fit Bike Co.'s "F-it" and Ells Bells' "Rebirth." At the time, De La Rosa and his brand of street riding was well on its way to revolutionizing a new style of street riding. Along with friend Vic Ayala, Edwin would spend days in Manhattan, riding, filming and shooting photos.
In the early spring of 2001, N.J.-based component brand Animal Bikes was beginning to work on their first video, and De La Rosa was hard at work on his section for the video throughout the summer.
Then, on September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, and within minutes, life had changed in New York City.
At the time, Edwin De La Rosa was staying in Manhattan, just over a mile away from Ground Zero. "I was at my girlfriend's house at the time. She lived on Bleecker Street, on the 15th floor. I was with (fellow BMXer) Vic [Ayala], and he was staying there too. We were broke, and chilling in the city. And I happened to be going out with this girl, and she let us stay with her when we were around," says De La Rosa.
"That morning, my girlfriend at the time woke up to go to work in the morning around 8:30 in the morning. We heard a loud boom, but living in New York, you just kinda get used to loud noises from construction and whatnot. So I didn't really think anything of it until we turned the TV on, and then I was like 'What! That's what that noise was!' Then the second building got hit, and it was pretty crazy to be there. I heard the boom, then ambulances, cop cars, everything flying past the place where we were, just one constant siren noise going downtown. We figured out what had happened pretty quick after," he continues.
By 11 a.m. that morning, both the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center had collapsed. Lower Manhattan was still burning, and the people of New York City were left to ponder what had happened just outside of their doorsteps. "I kept thinking to myself that I couldn't believe this was happening, and how that day would go down in history. Knowing that we were living through something crazy happening, right in front of us, it was surreal," says Edwin.
Most BMXers in the New York/New Jersey area did what they knew best to do, attempting to ride bikes and not dwell on the catastrophe that had struck New York City. But Edwin De La Rosa was stuck in Manhattan, unable to return home to Brooklyn because the trains had stopped running and the bridges were soon closed.
"I was stuck in the city for a couple of days. Things were a mess. The day it happened, me, Vic and that girl walked over by Canal St. and drank a six-pack right on the street, cause there were no cops around. We ended just chilling in the city, bugging out about what happened, like everyone else there."
Eventually, the city of New York and its residents began to recover from September 11. But due to ongoing construction throughout downtown Manhattan, the daily routines of the many skateboarders and BMXers in the area was changing.
"Everything was shut down. You couldn't go below 14th and Canal without a bill from your address in downtown to get below 14th Street. They weren't letting people down there, and it shut down a lot of spots. Obviously, the Brooklyn Banks got shut down, and that's when I was riding the Banks a lot," says Edwin, respectfully mentioning that in the grand scheme of life as New Yorkers had known it, it wasn't such a big deal.
But he did miss the riding spots that were quickly growing in popularity in lower Manhattan. "The World Trade Center had a couple of sick spots, right there at the buildings. The Brooks Brothers rail is right across the street from the World Trade Center, we used to ride that all the time. There was a nice ledge that started low and ended up high cause the sidewalk went down a hill. That day shut the whole area down for a minute, it was pretty crazy."The above video features early footage of Edwin in and around New York City, circa 2001, and begins with an iconic shot of the WTC in the NYC skyline.
Still, De La Rosa is aware of the bigger picture in New York City, not just a loss of riding spots. "9/11 changed everything, not just bike riding in the city," he says.
Now, as the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001 approaches this weekend, Edwin De La Rosa, now a widely known, respected pro within the BMX street riding community, looks to the future of New York City with hope. "Downtown is getting rebuilt, they're building a new World Trade Center, and downtown's population is starting to resurge," he says.
En route back to Brooklyn from Jersey City, De La Rosa stops off at the PATH Station at the World Trade Center stop. "New York City changed a lot, obviously. But I think the change has become a good change now," he concludes.
Story originally published September 2011.