ew 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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