|New York City -- September 25, 2001|
This past Tuesday my granddaughter Krystal (a photo-journalist in training) and I (a videographer in training) drove to New York City. We traveled the NYS Thruway, Palisades Parkway, across the George Washington Bridge, down Henry Hudson Parkway, across 34th St., down 5th Ave to Canal St. and found a parking spot on Wooster St. Travel time was 3 hours without a single delay.
By the time we got to our parking spot we had seen about 1,000 policemen (all over the city) and especially along the Hudson shoreline and along Canal St., prohibiting traffic from entering any further into lower Manhattan.
From our parking spot we started walking west along Canal St. Although pedestrian traffic was light (I’ve walked that street when it was absolutely shoulder to shoulder), the world mix of faces and languages was immediately present. People seemed hurried but more subdued and respectful than normal New York City. But very little was normal. Signs of the World Trade Center disaster were on everyone’s faces and everywhere you looked – the police, smell, smoke, masks, fire trucks, emergency vehicles, photos of the missing, flags… On foot we were able to proceed toward the World Trade Center on Broadway to within about 4 blocks of the great black smoldering monolith. There, police were checking identification for residency, with a sprinkling of people passing in and out of the restricted area along with a great number of emergency vehicles.
A few weary looking construction workers were coming out. One young man stopped to admire our Lab puppy, Chica, and possibly the young lady on the end of her leash. He’d said he’d been working for 96 hours with a company that specialized in sucking up stuff! They were taking a break because some blasting was about to begin to bring down a leaning wall near where they’d been working. I hate to say it, but it may indicate the extent to which the public is being spared some of the agony -- he said the worst thing they’d encountered so far was 100 bodies piled up in a stairwell. We bid the young man farewell and traveled on our way.
We went back north and east, through Little Italy, and then through China Town. Again pedestrian traffic was light but sights and sounds were back to normal – with fresh vegetables, fish, duck and American flags for sale.
We settled down for dinner at a street-side table back in Little Italy. Chica was welcomed to the table by the Maitre d’ and we enjoyed a delicious dinner of chicken and pasta. However, more enjoyable than our dinner were the two women at the adjoining table. Again, Chica was our entrée to conversation and before long we had two guests at our table. The two were flight attendants on American Airlines! They shared an apartment with four others airline workers, including a pilot, and one’s brother was a NYC fireman. The fireman was “on light duty”, due to an injury, at the time of the first airplane hit. But an hour after the buildings fell he was at “ground zero.”
This was the girls’ first “night out” since the attack. Basically I’d say they just wanted to enjoy the company of others and pour their hearts out with their stories and feelings. We were certainly eager listeners! They had already had trauma counseling and started training on how to deal aggressively with terrorists. Whereas their jobs were somewhat lonely and boring before, now they were feeling protective and connected to their passengers, feeling joy working and living with each other, and in awe every time their planes took off and landed!
They may still be there, drinking Sangria and flirting with the Maitre d’, but we bid them farewell – invited them to check out our singles network to the North (which took up another 10 minutes of spirited interchange!) and Krystal got a sincere invitation to come check out their life style!
Three hours later we were back in Albany. Yesterday we used my NYC footage as part of our local Public Access televisions show, “The Wednesday Edition of Schenectady Today.” I also put together a 15 minute video to be shown at the public access station – not spectacular, but interesting. It shows the sights and sounds around the disaster area. I think it’s somewhat comforting just to see people on the edges and to see life going on.
Whoever reads this -- be well and seize the day!