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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at

July 28, 2003

Around me, New York is breathing a sigh of relief. The huge storms promised
seemed to have slipped by us without doing much damage to the city.

Not so upstate, where trees were felled. Claverack Cottage was spared from
more than a few small branches down and a power outage but some of our
friends and neighbors were not so fortunate.

These were storms worthy of reams of poetry; storms worthy of a scene in
Lear -- slashing, monstrous storms that downed trees and pulled down power
lines and made great clashes of noise while walls of waters seemed to fall
with winds that may have been tornadoes.

That’s the kind of weather we’ve been having.

But over the last weekend, we had the sweetest couple of days that we’d seen
all summer. They were brilliant days, sunburst full. And in those two days
we celebrated our eighth anniversary, surrounded by friends at a party that
lasted much later than we’d expected last Saturday night. Friends came from
New York and Washington, D.C. and from all around Claverack to help us

It was a wonderful, small breather from all our realities.

As this week has been the week in which a City Councilman was assassinated
in City Hall, not far from our city apartment and almost next door to where
Tripp works.

It has been interesting to me that no one used the word “assassinated” when
first talking about the killing of Councilman Davis just after he was shot.
But that’s what it was. It is a word that is a little harsh for our tender,
frightened times though just this morning Mayor Bloomberg began to use the
“a” word.

I am not the only person who called to a loved one downtown to ask if they
were safe. Many who knew nothing of what was going on other than there were
ambulances and helicopters and swarms of SWAT teams. It shook everyone in
the city, particularly until the assassin was identified.

Could it be that this was another terrorist attack? That’s how our minds
think here. Any act that is in the least out of the ordinary is suspect.
Today, on the radio, I heard that 18,000 people were out of power in Metro
New York because of sabotage on one of the power stations.

Now the first thing we think of isn’t a teenage prankster. We weigh every
event as if it might be a terrorist attack.

Which is what it was – but on a very singular and very granular level here
in New York.

Part of the civic conversation in New York today is not just about not being
able to smoke in bars but about the recent 9/11 report which indicates there
were huge holes in our intelligence before the catastrophe with many here
convinced not much has been done to close those holes since.

But before this poor Councilman was shot down and while the 9/11 debate
raged, there was the fiery finish of Odai and Usay Hussein, shot down in a
gun battle worthy of the last scene of Scarface.

Ah, but are they dead? the Iraqis are asking.

I suspect they are. And to prove it we will release pictures of the
corpses. Not very American but very human. Who can forget the vision of
the body of Mussolini hanging from his heels in the dog days of World War
II? Or, more recently, the death of the Romanian dictator and his wife,
also strung up before the crowds to prove they were gone?

It is a venerable tradition this: the desecration of the bodies of
dictators. And while we have not hung the Hussein brothers by their heels
in the Mosul town square, we have released photos of the corpses, which have
convinced some but not all. Where are the photos of their profiles?

But the end of Saddam Hussein’s sons does not seem to have tampered down the
violence but rather increased it. More soldiers die each day.

It is no wonder that we, as a nation, are questioning the quality of the
victory we have won.