Itís been just over a week since
the world changed. Itís the first morning that I havenít been awakened
by aircraft flying overhead followed by the screech of sirens. Instead,
the traffic on Canal Street as returned to normal, and the steel plates,
left from the now suspended, but never ending sewer replacement, bang
and clang endlessly. Fortunately it is cool enough that I can close all
the windows and bedroom doors and sleep a bit longer in quiet.
surprised that the plates have survived; the amount of heavy, over laden
trucks contacting them has been incredible. The other day I saw a huge
crane, being trucked in, split between two low-slung flat bed trucks.
Overburdened, but nonetheless willing, the bottom of the trucks scrapped
along the ground, and barely resisted ripping the plates off.
amazing how many supplies still come and go. I found that I could
volunteer at the Salvation Army on 14th Street. Just walk in,
sign up and you can load and unload trucks. No one goes to ground zero,
but At this point, helping is all that matters.
last night, around 10:30PM expecting it to be understaffed, but by
midnight when I left, there were over 50 people there!
unloading a truck, I noticed a line of people unloading another truck in
bucket-brigade fashion. I chuckled to myself, as I had this image of
Noahís Ark. There seemed to be two of every race, gender and
denomination. All were working as a team, all in good spirits, all doing
their part to save humanity after this flood of evil.
the afternoon, as I came out of the subway on 14th Street to
check out the situation at the Salvation Army, I did what I always do. I
flipped my head over to look south on 7th Ave. New Yorkers do
this automatically to get their bearings. Flip their head to find either
the Empire State Building or the World Trade Center.
compass points, sighting either or even better, both, always gave you
orientation, even if you were sure of your direction. For the past
30 years weíve had the two big, ugly flat tops to give us that extra
point, that final check, that extra security. About 20 years ago, seeing
that the towers were disappearing in the forest sprouting around it,
they added the antenna to the north tower. Now you could see at least
one of the big, ugly flat tops with a big white long thing on top with
but they were oursÖ
my head, expecting to see at least the tip of the antenna, to know I am
headed in the right direction. Except there was nothing there, just a
brief moment I am confused. I know I am looking south. I really donít
need the proof.
on me, suddenly, severely, savagely. They didnít put it back. Theyíre
I check in
to the Salvation Army, and see that there is a lot of work, I can return
in the evening, which I plan to do.
walking and come upon a remarkable site. Something maybe last seen about
the time the two towers were erected. Something between a memorial, a
love in and a happening.
Square. If you donít know New York, you would not expect that it is a
fairly green and tree filled city. I know many think it is a jungle
here, but we take great pride on the neatness and serenity of our green
space. We try to leave the wildlife to the discoís and Donald Trumpís
Central Park, there are, perhaps another 20 large parks, countless small
parks and even ďpocketĒ parks. Pocket parks are empty lots, often tiny,
which a neighborhood has taken over and turned into an oasis. Itís
interesting to note that our now sainted mayor, in fits of revenge and
pure meanness, turned a lot of these parks over to developers in revenge
for some slight.
Square is a park about 4 square blocks in size anchored at 14th
Street on the south and Park Ave South on the east. It is so named on
honor of the unions that grew out of the many sweatshops originally in
the area. In the sixties and seventies as NY faced bankruptcy the parks
were put on deferred maintenance and slowly became the dirty, unsafe,
garbage collections of lore.
past 20 years or so, New Yorkers and their government have seen what an
important asset, really a crown jewel, the parks were. A lot of money
was spent, both public and private, to cleanup, upgrade, reseed and
replant the parks. The concept of their use was also evaluated and much
more conservative (in the sense of conservation) restrictions were
placed on them.
Square Park was one of those that recently became beneficiary to the
combined largess of the city and civilians. It was fenced in, the bums,
homeless, druggies were shipped to someone elseís backyard. New trees,
walkways, seating, seeding, the works. More permanent spaces for the
Greenmarket which surrounds the north part of the park 3 days a week,
final stages of its rebirth, it now marks the death of so many. It is a
memorial, filled with candles flowers, pictures and poems. It grew as an
impromptu and small memorial, like so many downtown, as it was just at
the northern checkpoint during that first dreadful week. It was an oasis
from the tragic ruins not a mile further south.
it had grown to cover most of the park, the flowers, candles, pictures,
flyers, letters, thoughts, poems, and words of all sorts, line the
fences that surround the green interior. The open space at the south end
is a growing sea of candles and flowers. Around the base of the statue
of Washington people have chalked slogans of peace and remembrance. An
American flag flies from the statue and a Peace Symbol flag is taped to
the outstretched hand of the first elected leader of the United States.
His hand points resolutely south, as if reminding us from whence this
comes. Except we donít need the reminder. Yet.
group surrounds and argues, the loudest voices I have heard in days. I
donít listen but it clearly about war and revenge and justice vs. peace
and forgiveness. These are the issues facing us all in the next phase of
our life. It is in America we can debate this, but in New York it is not
the time, yet. We still need to mourn, care, stay human, and keep
humanity. The combatants break off, but new ones take up the challenge.
Like our enemies and our protectors.
small group of Hare Krishnaís playing a small harmonium type instrument
and the ever present thumb cymbals, chant and offer peace. There a small
group of, well, hippies, have spread out a pride of new grey blankets,
probably donations from the nearby Salvation Army. Surrounded by their
meager possessions and their dogs, the lie, peacefully and unmolested on
a patch of grass. They are almost incongruous extras to the cast of 21st
Century New Yorkers who circulate around, hushed, heads bowed, tears
has set up her guitar and amplifier and starts singing songs of peace,
love and hope from the Ď60s. Itís a Woodstock of grief, anger, fear and
shock. But it is a familiar and totally New York experience.
children too. How must they see all this? Will they remember this in 30
or 40 years or will it too fade into legend and history, a dusty old
tale that the grandkids groan about when the old fart recalls it at
Thanksgiving? It remains to be seen. For now, there seems to be a mixed
reaction, some take it like young adults, some confused, some scared,
some oblivious. Like us. Like humanity.
the defining moment of change for their society. For their future. My
generation had Vietnam and Watergate, but the drastic and wrenching
changes they wrought took more then 10 years and we can almost only
appreciate it in nostalgia.
parents and grandparents also witnessed drastic change, but then too,
times were slower, no CNN, no Internet, no email, no faxes, no FedEx.
time to digest and absorb. Information was limited by the technology of
the time, newsreels were as close as you got to ďlive video coverage,Ē
radio, while often real-time, left most to the imagination. We only
really got ďliveĒ TV at the end of the sixties with the Chicago
Convention and the moon landing.
Challenger disaster in 1986 was probably the first international trauma
broadcast live. We saw it happen then happen over and over and over
again. But that was a scheduled broadcast event. It was an accident in
with the rapid advances in technology since then, only 15 years ago, we
had live coverage from almost the first impact, and many saw the second
plane live and in color. Who has time to digest and absorb,
especially when we canít stop seeing it from every angle, from afar,
from too close up.
deal with the rapid ingestion of disaster? Will our children become
immune to future horrors simply because they will be live and in color?
repeated, ad infinitum?
singer starts strumming some Hendrix, I know itís time to leave. I turn
and look once more, and take in the scene, past, present and future.
south, facing the skyline, where it hasnít been before. The sun breaks
through the smoke and clouds. And for a brief second itís beautiful, I
smile, and then I realize that this is a view only available because
that part of the skyline is no longer blocked.
is beauty in it, and we need to get used to it. The towers were ugly and
I am so
proud of my city. As much as we can wave flags and be proud of America,
its spirit, its greatness, its bounty, nowhere else but here, here in
New York, will you find so much diversity, in such a small place, so
un-divisive, and so bound together as one.
travels, many on motorcycle, I have had opportunity to visit other
cities and towns. Many, at first blush, are more friendly and open then
New York appears to be. In reality, though, you are still a stranger; an
outsider and you have a lot of dues to pay to become a member of the
appearing too busy to be friendly, too fast-paced to be open, is made up
of those individuals who are outside the tribe. We are a tribe of
individuals and America loves Individualism but is suspicious of
this past week proves that Individuals are a fierce, proud and united
tribe. A tribe with a soul and heart beyond what the world expected.
it. We just never suspected we would need to show it.
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