immigration continues today, a million people a year,
mostly from third-world countries like Ecuador, Columbia,
Egypt, Pakistan, and China.
the new Americans is a writer named Andrew Sullivan
who came here seventeen years ago. Today on his website
he published some words that speak for me and, I'm sure,
many other Americans.
is hard to realize after this unspeakable act that
we are not alone. There is hatred for America and
it is loud and powerful. But beneath that, around
the world, there is also a quiet reservoir of love
and gratitude that foreign national pride will not
always allow full expression. We must remember that.
And we must not let them down. They are watching now
to see what we do and what kind of people we are.
We must show them as we have never shown them before
that a deep humanity and an unremitting rage are not
incompatible. We must show them what we are made of
and keep their hope alive.
September 12, 2001
the day of the attack, I took the subway to Manhattan
and walked around for several hours. I wanted to experience
the feeling of community that springs up when a disaster
occurs. I expected to find strangers talking to each
other with the feeling that we are all in this thing
together. I also wanted to see the disaster and visit
a hospital to donate blood.
the afternoon my local subway line was working so I
went to Times Square, the center of Manhattan. The train
was delayed and people began to talk. I expected them
to talk about the disaster, but mostly they talked about
the delay. One woman was going to her office to work.
I said that surely the office is closed. She said she
is responsible for something at work and she has to
go and unfortunately she can't call them for a reason
that I didn't understand. She seemed to be an intelligent,
capable, mature person who was acting irrationally.
men including the subway driver were standing at the
front of the train talking animatedly about the delay.
I mentioned the World Trade Center, and for a moment
they talked about it. But then the conversation shifted
to an earthquake in Greece that one of the men had witnessed.
It was as if the World Trade Center itself was too big
was cheerful. There was no sense of disaster.
Nobody talked about who might have done it, or what
the government might do in response, or how life in
the United States will change, or how many people had
died, or anything of that kind.
we talked, the plume of smoke was visible through the
train windows (we were stopped on an elevated track).
I reached Times Square, the heart of Manhattan. Manhattan
is an island and the mayor had closed all the bridges
and tunnels. Police were everwhere. There was no traffic
on most streets, and people were using them as pedestrian
malls. It was a beautiful day. People were strolling,
smiling, pointing into store windows. The smoke from
the burning buildings was visible in the sky, but almost
nobody was looking at it.
The sense of community that I anticipated did not exist.
Nobody was talking to other people. It was like an ordinary
people didn't realize yet how large this event was.
The world's superpower is now at war, a war of a new
kind, and large events will follow.
maybe people realize that things have changed too fast
for their ideas to keep up, and so they keep quiet.
Or maybe it was because many of the people were tourists
from other countries visiting the United States. It's
hard to tell whether people are visitors or residents
because so many New York residents come from other countries.
walked south toward the World Trade Center (it was at
the southern tip of the island). The mayor had barricaded
the island from west to east at Houston Street. This
in itself was incredible because the barricade was several
miles long, a solid barrier of sawhorses and police.
Now finally I encountered other New Yorkers who had
walked or bicycled or roller-bladed to this place to
see the disaster for themselves. Houston Street was
being used as a staging area for heavy construction
equipment. Small crowds stood on the sidewalks watching.
They were quiet. There was little or no conversation
except for the police imploring people, "You can't stand
there. Keep moving."
almost every corner there was a police barricade, but
the police were disorganized and didn't seem sure which
way foot traffic should be permitted to pass. By zigzagging
from block to block, taking advantage of the inconsistent
rules, I was able to walk west to the river. The largest
crowd of observers stood here staring at the plume of
smoke, which was now just a few blocks away. Standing
and staring. Nobody was talking. Many people seemed
say police, but most of these people were students from
the police academy. They wore bulletproof vests and
baseball caps. Some of them came from relatively obscure
city agencies like the Sheriff's department. Obviously,
every possible city worker had been mobilized.
During the whole time I walked around Manhattan, I didn't
see a single moving ambulance. Clearly, living people
were not being found.
most moving sight was in the large playground at the
corner of Sixth Avenue and Houston Street. Hundreds
of men in blue overalls sat in folding chairs. They
were maintenance workers for a city agency that manages
public housing. Somebody was giving them instructions
through a bullhorn. They were about to put on face masks
and drive their half-ton trucks to the World Trade Center
and search for bodies. Yesterday, these middle-aged
men mopped floors and mowed lawns. Today they are heroes.
I walked north to Saint Vincent's hospital, the closest
hospital to the disaster. About a hundred people in
green surgical scrubs sat in folding chairs in front
of the entrance. I don't know if they were workers waiting
for patients or patients who had lost their clothing.
I couldn't get close enough to ask. Nobody seemed to
have any work to do. Two ambulances were parked. They
didn't have anything to do either.
of people in various kinds of uniforms stood around.
It was apparent that they had come from the disaster
site because their shoes and pants were covered with
white dust. They had grim facial expressions. It was
clear from their faces that they had seen something
terrible but I didn't talk to them.
was odd how nobody was talking. That's my biggest impression
overall. Nobody was talking.
Nobody could donate blood because blood collection wouldn't
start until the next day, even though the media have
been begging people to donate blood. Reminded me of
the old World War II joke that the army is organized
on the principle, "Hurry up and wait." Well, it makes
sense. It's easy for an official to say "We need blood"
at a press conference, and easy for the media to report
it, but it's much harder for the hospitals to organize
a program to collect it.
number of readers have sent e-mails asking whether I'm
safe. You are so sweet, all of you!
World Trade Center used to be visible from this desk
where I normally work. I was watching this morning while
the buildings burned and fell. Now the view will be
in New York is calling and e-mailing each other to ask
about friends and relatives who work in the area where
the World Trade Center used to be. This must be what
happens in Israel after a bomb goes off. It makes me
sad for both countries.
seems to be answering their phones in lower Manhattan.
Maybe they all left their offices and are trying to
walk home. They will have to walk, because the subways
are shut down. The phones and Internet are working normally,
but only one television station is broadcasting because
the antennas were located on the World Trade Center.
grew up in this city and I love it. People who hate
the United States may not realize that we invite one
million immigrants to live here every year, and a very
large fraction of those people settle in New York. They
come from countries like Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco, and
Ecuador. (How do I keep track? Everytime I take a taxi,
I ask the driver where he's from.)
When terrorists attack New York, they are attacking
people from all these countries and others.
is all maya, it's just maya, but it makes me realize
that I love maya! We live in maya and love in maya and
I wish that things like this didn't happen.