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Our email address is editor @realization.org.

Copyright 2001 Realization.org.


This is an old edition of this page. The current page is here.

A View From
New York

September 14, 2001

From the incessant television interviews with ordinary New Yorkers, the world is seeing that the United States is a nation of immigrants.


The belief is widespread that the U.S. is a British settler state like Australia, which is populated mainly by emigrants from the U.K. and by the aboriginal Australians whom they displaced. But this is no longer true of the U.S. Only fifteen percent of Americans have British ancestors; only twelve percent identify themselves as African-American; less than one percent are American Indians. The rest of us are immigrants or descendents of immigrants from other places.    

The immigration continues today, a million people a year, mostly from third-world countries like Ecuador, Columbia, Egypt, Pakistan, and China.

Among 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.

It 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

Yesterday, 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.

In 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.

Three 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 a topic.

Everybody 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.

While 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 holiday.

Maybe 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.

Or 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.

I 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."

At 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 cheerful.

I 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.

The 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.

Lots 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.

It 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.

September 11, 2001

A number of readers have sent e-mails asking whether I'm safe. You are so sweet, all of you!

I'm okay.

The 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 different forever.

Everybody 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.

Nobody 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.

I 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.

This 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.


New Webzines

You might want to check out these two new webzines.

Amigo, published by Kees Schreuders in Dutch and English, covers Jnana Yoga and Advaita Vedanta. The inaugural edition includes articles by Wolter Keers, Jan van Delden, Douglas Harding, Jan Koehoorn, Tony Parsons, Krishna Menon, Philip Renard, Belle Bruins, and Kees Schreuders.

Heartseva is published by Bob Boyd. It covers an eclectic mixture of topics ranging from Chinese music to the healing aspects of art. Authors include J. Ann Masiker, Jerry Weinstein, AD, Bob Boyd, and Tracy Miller. The dialogues with Ganga are particularly noteworthy.



December 1999
March 2000
August 2001

This page was published on May 10, 2001 and
last revised on September 15, 2001.

Copyright 2001 Realization.org. All rights reserved.