Friday Morning, September 14, 2001
A cold drizzle sprays relentlessly. There is a sense of anger at
the rain and the cold for concern that it will hamper rescue efforts
downtown. But the rain continues to fall lightly as if to cleanse
the city of the grayish dust that has spread across the streets
of all of its boroughs. That dust from downtown that somehow settled
discretely into our throats - to be shared like communion - regardless
of who you were, where you lived, poor or rich; blind to race and
religion. An inescapable reminder that something inside all of us
died on Tuesday. But much like the warm weather that melts the snow
in the winter, so does today's rain wash away the dust.
On day four, Manhattan is a city divided, its lower part "downtown"
Closed to cars and pedestrians below Canal Street. For those of
us uptown, we are witnesses to the disaster through our TVs, radios
and computers, just like the rest of the world. By all appearances
New York is back to normal: the traffic, the noise, the hustle and
bustle of shoppers, construction cranes, drills, the sound of a
transit bus door closing behind its passengers ,the subway rattle,
car alarms, the lights of Broadway, steam rising from the streets,
the sea of yellow taxis descending the avenues. Even laughter has
But then there are the sirens. Oh, the sirens. So accustomed are
New Yorkers to sirens, but nothing like this. Why do these sound
different? So many more than we've ever heard before, their urgency
multiplied with each day of rescue. They herald messages of hope
above the hum of the city. Where we used to cover our ears in annoyance,
we now embrace the sirens as if we are doing our part to escort
these emergency vehicles to their duty - vans, cars, trucks, busses,
mobile units, SUVs, some hauling equipment the likes we've never
seen before. One minute a convoy of 20 vehicles competes with a
taxi for a lane - another minute a lone NYPD car abruptly turns
and stops to cut off entry to a street. The country may be at war,
but in New York we are at home. Is this the future of our city?
At least today Grand Central Station hasn't been evacuated for fear
of a bomb as each day prior - or at least not yet.
Although our laughter has returned it is muted for the time being.
Somewhere we are all collectively depressed. It's not a depression
in the traditional sense. We are not sick - rather we are sickened.
We hurt -although the pain finally feels dull. Even the strongest
man has cried by now. Yes we are healing, but as of today the pain
is still inoperable. Everywhere around you there is a reminder that
the horrible events of Tuesday happened right here in our great
city. A walk to work from Columbus Circle to 42nd and Park reminds
us that we are at ground zero.
Times Square: Flags are beginning to sprout like wild flowers after
a forest fire. One notices on people's clothing buttons and badges
and other hints of red, white and blue as New Yorkers attempt to
express their solidarity with the nation. So many US flags accompanied
by impromptu messages of hope painted onto large sheets and draped
across scaffolding of construction sites where new skyscrapers are
being born. How proud we somehow feel about our great American skyscraper.
Where Broadway meets Seventh Avenue: the Morgan Stanley midtown
tower is using its large outdoor signs - normally reserved for rolling
stock quotes - to disseminate the toll-free telephone number where
employees' loved ones can check on their status.
5th Avenue: Saks Fifth Avenue department store - the very showcase
of American decadence and class distinction - is reduced to a common
denominator with the city's 8 million inhabitants. Dozens of display
windows at street level wrap the building's block-long faAade, but
where is the Christian Dior display enticing us to envy those that
can afford the frivolous scent of gold? Replaced. Replaced by flat
black panels providing a solemn background; each window dressed
with two simple words "With Sadness". At the corner windows at 49th
and 50th streets, against the black backdrop, there are two magnificent
bouquets of white lilies. To see the windows of Saks dressed in
black is to imagine the Christmas and Easter displays packed into
a box and stuffed away in the attic.
42nd Street: Grand Central Station - across from GlobeCast's Manhattan
sales office. Busy commuters are at a stand still in front of the
many entrances to the station. The station is not closed. They are
taking a moment to read the growing number of posted signs that
announce the missing; the kind of homemade signs you're used to
seeing on telephone polls to announce a garage sale or a family
kitty that's missing. But these messages are far from the occasional
neighborhood bulletin. These are dire pleads to help locate a missing
loved one. I too am drawn to the haunting messages that have begun
to eerily wallpaper our city and our souls. I reflect on the two
people missing from my own apartment building and wonder whether
their names count among the notices in front of me. Allow me to
share but a few of the notices that deserve our moment of pause
Missing: Amy O'Doherty
23 years old
Missing from WTC 1 - 104th floor
Cantor Fitzgerald Agency
Photo attached of smiling young woman
Please help us locate Laurence "Larry" Nedell
Aon employee last seen on 92nd floor - WTC Tower 1
Photo attached of man, mid-thirties at home at dinner table
Please!!! If you see this person!
WTC - #2
Fudiciary Trust - 90th floor
Photo: close up of smiling young woman
Missing: Mario Nardone
Company: Euro Brokers
2 World Trade Center - 84th Floor
Photo of smiling man in back yard dressed in suit with cocktail
Missing: Mike Zinzi
Marsh - 100th floor
Photo - man maybe 40, headshot with glasses
Missing: Shakila Yesner and Nural H. Miah
Both worked for "Marsh" - 93rd floor, 1 WTC
Black & White Photos: one of a man and one of a woman, both in late
early 30s, both smiling
Please!!! If you see this person!
Clothing - Navy Blue Shirt
Photo of woman around 30
Missing: Joseph Mostrulli
Joe is a NYC carpenter working in the Windows on the World restaurant
"God and angels up above, send us home the one we love"
Black & White photo of man with beard
Friday Afternoon: The sun is back out in Manhattan; the temperature
is still cool. It is just this combination of low humidity and late
afternoon sun that polishes the tops of buildings in New York, as
if a jeweler dipped the skyline in silver and gold. This is the
time of day when the World Trade Center towers took on their full
beauty and splendor. These two magnificent towers that spanned from
Church to West Streets and Liberty to Vesey Streets were more than
massive skyscrapers symbolizing America's trade and economic might.
They were a marvel of logistics and engineering, and among the finest
examples of architecture from the "modernist" period the world has
ever known; minimalist in their styling, with delicate Italian Gothic-tipped
windows at the base.
The following excerpt from the book Manhattan Skyscrapers by Eric.
P. Nash nobly describes the World Trade Center in all its excellence:
"Completed in 1973 and 1974 by Minoru Yamasaki and Emery Roth &
Sons, its sheer bulk is difficult to take in: two sheer, flat-topped,
110-story,1,362- and 1,368-foot-tall towers, which together contain an
unheard-of10million square feet of office space. Each floor takes up an
entire acre because of the column-free floor plates.
The list of construction materials reads like a list of war preparations:43,000
windows, or 600,000 sq. ft. of glass; 200,000 tons of structural
steel (more than was used for the Verrazano Narrows Bridge that
connects Staten Island with Brooklyn); 6 acres of marble; 40,000
door knobs; 200elevators; 1,200 restrooms. The aluminum-alloy skin
is warm and visually engaging as a reflector for the broad skies
over Lower Manhattan. At sunset, the transparent glass settles in
to match the color of the sun."
On Tuesday, September 11th the Empire State Building regained
its crown as the tallest building in New York. She too weeps at
the loss of her bigger sisters downtown. They are gone from the
skyline forever and it just rips my heart out.
We have all lost so much this week. With these words I have only
scratched the surface of what it is like to be in New York today.
Thank you to everyone for your emails and phone calls.
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