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September 13, 2001

THE MOOD

A City of Quiet: Nothing Is Same One Day After

By N. R. KLEINFIELD
Multimedia

interactive_feature  Interactive Feature: Terror Attacks


video  Terror Attacks on Manhattan


interactive_feature  Images of Terror

Related Articles
A Day of Terror

Barest Count, by Three of Hundreds of Companies, Has 1,500 Missing (September 13, 2001)

United Flight 93: On Doomed Flight, Passengers Vowed to Perish Fighting (September 13, 2001)

The Investigation: As F.B.I. Tracks Hijackers, bin Laden Tie Is Cited (September 13, 2001)

The President: Aides Say Bush Was One Target of Hijacked Jet (September 13, 2001)

The Search: A Few Moments of Hope in a Mountain of Rubble (September 13, 2001)

The Military: Administration Considers Broader, More Powerful Options for Potential Retaliation (September 13, 2001)

The Firefighters: Department's Cruel Toll: 350 Comrades (September 13, 2001)

The Towers: Instincts to Flee Competed With Instructions to Remain (September 13, 2001)

The Cleanup: Challenges and Dangers in Disposing of Two Fallen Giants (September 13, 2001)

An Essay: New York, New York, It's a Suffering Town, but Stoicism Runs in Its Veins (September 13, 2001)

Our Towns: Unclaimed Cars in a Train Station Garage, in a Suburb Expecting the Worst (September 13, 2001)

The Scene: Below 14th Street, Silence but an Eerie Disquiet (September 13, 2001)

Relations: Arabs and Muslims Steer Through an Unsettling Scrutiny (September 13, 2001)

NYC: Diallo, Terrorism and the Choice of Safety vs. Liberty (September 13, 2001)

Metro Matters: In a Crisis, The Giuliani We Wanted (September 13, 2001)

The Hunt: Trying to Find a Name on a List of the Living (September 13, 2001)

The Missing: Hospital Treks, Fliers and the Cry: Have You Seen . . . ? (September 13, 2001)

The Icon: Towers Lent City a Lift, Adding an Air of Resilience (September 13, 2001)

The Children: As Witnesses to Tragedy, Students Confront Fears (September 13, 2001)

The Morgue: Truckload of Body Bags Hints at the Magnitude Of a Grisly Task Ahead (September 13, 2001)

Coping: Trauma, Felt Directly or Not, Takes a Psychic Toll (September 13, 2001)

Information on Closings and Openings (September 13, 2001)

The Volunteers: Lending Everything From Ears to Elbow Grease (September 13, 2001)

The Displaced: Caught Behind Barricades and Waiting to Go Home (September 13, 2001)

The Method: Terrorists Were Well Trained, But Not Necessarily in Flying (September 13, 2001)

Transit: Part of Subway Tunnel May Have Collapsed Under Weight of Debris, Officials Fear (September 13, 2001)

The Government: Still Reeling From Losses, New York Looks for Makeshift Solutions (September 13, 2001)

Aftershocks: As Remnants Collapse, Workers Run for Cover (September 13, 2001)

The Economy: In Wounded Financial Center, Trying to Head Off Defections (September 13, 2001)

Charity: How to Help the Neediest of Cases (September 13, 2001)

Where to Go for Assistance (September 13, 2001)

New York woke up to another day yesterday, but it wasn't another day. It couldn't possibly be.

It was a city of less. Less traffic, less noise, fewer people, less activity, less momentum, less certainty, less joy.

The dawn did not erase the preceding day's agony no dawn could and so New Yorkers ate their meals, did the dishes and put out the trash, the mundane tasks of life, but nothing felt the same. The city seemed ever so much more fragile and unfamiliar.

On a day when work meant so much less than family and human companionship, when the very constructs of what it meant to live in New York came under question, New Yorkers spent much of their time in somber and heartfelt reflection.

The most glaring difference yesterday, of course, was less skyline. No one could glance downtown without feeling chills from the absence of the trade center towers. But in countless smaller ways, the reassuring signposts of daily life were not there.

It was a city of quiet.

People who lived near the city's busy airports, accustomed to the repetitive ear-splitting roar of jets arriving and departing, awoke to a day of uncomfortable silence. Smaller sounds resounded, for the bigger ones were gone.

Traffic was sparse, and sirens, one of the background noises of city life, seemed so much louder and more ominous than ever before.

It was a city of lonely commutes.

Richard M. Morris's workday always begins when he squeezes onto Metro-North's final rush hour train at Croton-on-Hudson, the last express stop before Manhattan. The train is usually a sardine can by then, people having boarded on the succession of earlier stops. Mr. Morris, a corporate lawyer, barely finds room for his 6-foot-3 frame.

But when he took the train yesterday morning, he had rows of seats to himself. Even the front car, typically crammed with those eager to conserve a few precious commuting steps, was just about empty.

Mr. Morris continued his routine yesterday out of willpower rather than need. His office was closed. He did not need to come in. "The one thing you know the terrorists want is to disrupt our lives," he said. "I'm not going to give them that. I'm trying to regain some normalcy."

It was a city of eerie contrasts.

On the Upper West Side, there was a powerful but artificial sense of another day. In the morning, a playground in Riverside Park teemed with children playing on swings and in sandboxes in the sparkling sunshine, under the watchful eyes of parents. Along the promenade, people sat reading the papers, biking and skating. But there was an odd hush. Smiles were rare.

By the time one gravitated down to West 55th Street, the complexion changed. Suddenly, there was the evacuated, closely protected aura of a war zone. Police checkpoints and barricades appeared along the bikeway and the West Side Highway, continuing all the way to Lower Manhattan. Traffic vanished. One could travel for blocks and see only a city bus or an occasional taxi.

Lower Manhattan, had the feel of an abandoned town. Everything closed. The streets and sidewalks nearly empty.

It was a city of postponements.

It was matinee day on Broadway shows in the afternoon and evening but all the theaters were dark. Nothing at the Golden or the Imperial or the Shubert. Nothing at the Lunt-Fontanne or the Palace. Performances canceled "due to circumstances beyond our control."

Two middle-aged women studied the notice on the door of the Lunt- Fontanne, where "Beauty and the Beast" usually plays, and one said, "No, no show today." Her friend said: "I didn't think so. How could there be a show? Who would show up? Who could perform?"

No one journeyed to the observation deck of the Empire State Building to look at the stunning cityscape. The entire building was shut down.

The stock exchange tape on the side of the Morgan Stanley offices at Broadway and 48th Street reported no stock trades. There were none to report. Instead, there was information on an employee assistance phone line and pleas to give blood.

No parents had to rise early and bundle their children off to school. There was no school. Some classmates arranged their own little gatherings to bond and distract themselves from events beyond their comprehension.

It was not a day for shopping.

So many stores were closed entirely, not sure when they would open. On the doors of the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, a notice said simply, "We are closed until further notice."

Macy's Herald Square, the world's biggest store, was open, but the aisles were thin in the late morning. The Gap across the street was closed. Outside, a half-dozen police officers ate sandwiches and drank from jugs of water propped on a parked car.

Barbers sat idly outside barber shops, talking quietly. It was not a day to get one's hair cut.

Midtown parking lots, usually bursting with cars, sat nearly empty. On 37th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, was a row of parking lots, promoting their exquisite convenience to Madison Square Garden, Macy's, the fashion district and the convention center. Any weekday found them packed with cars.

In the late morning an attendant at S&R Parking said he had 11 cars, all monthlies. No day parkers had arrived. "Normally, there would be 71 cars," he said.

The next lot down was closed and had no cars in it. The same story at the next one. At Park Right, where $5.92 got you an hour, George Hernandez, the manager, just shook his head. "Five cars," he said. "Just five."

On a normal day, the lot was full by 10 in the morning. "That's a hundred cars," he said. "Today, forget about it. It's bad news."

Mr. Hernandez lived in Queens and always drove to work, but there was limited access, so he took the subway. "Empty," he said. "Plenty of room to stretch out."

It was a city of reflection.

For everyone, the magnitude of what had happened was still being absorbed. People fumbled with what they would or would not do from now on. A man walking down Lexington Avenue in Midtown in the early morning kept saying, "I'll never go downtown again. Worked there 15 years. I'll never go down there again."

Measuring the city's will and its grit is never easy. Throughout its eventful history, periodically marred by tragedy, New Yorkers have always stood up with uncommon resolve and resilience, but this was unlike any other disaster, and many people felt shaken to the core. They found themselves having epiphanies.

Danny Klein, 27, was outside Madison Square Garden, wearing a T- shirt inscribed, "We will rebuild," a sentiment somewhere in the hopes of everyone in the city.

"I wore it because we are going to rebuild," he said. "I wanted to drape my body in the American flag is what I wanted to do."

There were people full of militant feelings, and there were people who expressed restraint.

"I'm a 47-year-old guy who just saw the World Trade Center blow up, and I don't want another innocent 47- year-old Afghani to look off his terrace and see something blow up," said Doc Daugherty, an actor who lives six blocks from the World Trade Center. "You think like you were going to go into a hate mode and instead I'm like more in a peace mode I mean, can we talk about this?"

Even blocks from the epicenter of the horror, on Reade Street near Hudson, some people who managed to enter the area went on as always. Grace DiTomaso placidly tended the potted geraniums in front of her Italian restaurant, Luca Lounge Cucina. "A little hose and they'll be O.K.," she said as she plucked dead leaves from them. She didn't even look up as emergency vehicles rolled up Hudson.

"Normal routine, don't you need it?" she said. "I think you do."

It was a city of oddities.

At one of the souvenir shops that line Fifth Avenue in the mid-40's, several people were congregated around the racks of postcards, buying cards with the World Trade Center on them.

It was a city of occasional panic.

After a trained dog gave signs of sniffing explosives on the 44th floor of the Empire State Building late last night, the police evacuated the area. Some jittery New Yorkers ran down Seventh Avenue away from the building. Others stopped on street corners to watch, saying they wanted a last look at the building. But it was all a false alarm.

It was a city of reassurance.

Among all that was different, there were of course the things that were just as they always were. They stood out in stark relief.

Like every other day of familiar and unfamiliar happenings, mail carriers pushed their wheeled carts through the streets, and the sight of them seemed comforting.

One man walked up to a mailman near the large post office building across Eighth Avenue from Madison Square Garden and asked if delivery would be normal today. The mailman didn't miss a step. He said, "Sure. The mail's coming today. The mail comes every day."

And for all the things that there were less of in New York yesterday, there were some important ones that there were more of. There was more grief, of course, but also an omnipresent feeling of compassion, a desire for companionship and a yearning to believe something redemptive could come out of horrific tragedy.

"For the first time in my life, I want a partner just so I don't have to go through this alone," said Jennifer MacLeod, 40, a media consultant.

Rather than stay home the night of the tragedy, she volunteered to work at a friend's understaffed bar, serving drinks, the first time she had waitressed since college. "It was really satisfying to be around other people," she said. "I also oddly felt I was doing a public service."

Most Wednesdays, Felicia Finley, 29, glues on fake eyelashes for her role in "Aida," the Broadway musical. But yesterday, she felt paralyzed. "I started to get dressed," she said, "then I started watching television and sat back down and started crying."

When the show resumes, she feels she will be renewed. "It's given me a newfound appreciation of what I do for a living," she said. "People need to feel inspiration and hope, and if I can do that, you better be sure that I'll be the first one to do it."



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