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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 In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie.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

Observations on a week…

A friend said to me the other day: remember that lunch we had on September 10th?

He wouldn’t remember it if it hadn’t been that day, the last day of the old world, the day before the Towers fell.

It’s late and I’ve just returned home from a long meeting for Body Positive, the AIDS support organization on whose Board I sit. The meeting ended and the two people, Felicia and Colby, from the AIDS Institute in Albany who attended, were getting ready to leave. Felicia, a former New Yorker, said that she was going to walk over to the Trade Center site as she had not seen it before. While she had been to New York, she couldn’t bring herself before now to go down there.

So the three of us walked over, saying good-bye to two others at the subway entrance for the 1 and 9, both headed uptown.

We were blocks away when Felicia saw the lights that burn brightly all through the night and she realized that the wall of white ahead of us was where we were heading. Her words were: oh my God!

We walked down and around the hole and I was reminded again of how powerful it is for people seeing this for the first time. For Felicia it was as overwhelming as it has been for everyone I have accompanied there; she had not been to lower Manhattan since August of 2001 when she took her daughter and a friend of hers to the Observation Deck of the Twin Towers to observe the city spread below them.

I observed Felicia and saw with fresh wonder how this place and this event still staggers the mind and emotions of people.

This is a week in which I have felt an observer as I moved through each day – very engaged in my own work, busier than I have been for some time but slightly disengaged from everything else, watching events play out.

I smiled today when a young man with green hair juggled green apples in the Canal Street subway stop and I observed with a smile a young Wall Street woman who looked like she’d been breed in a WASPish area of Connecticut spend a good deal of time helping an elderly African American gentleman find the right stop on the subway, guiding him with a gentle hand off the train at his stop.

I have observed in this column that New York is a kinder place. It is one thing so many of my friends from other parts of the country comment on when they visit now. The kindness of this young woman was another example that civility endures.

Another tape has been played and now, it appears as of today, that it may very well be the voice of Bin Laden – which has given the newly defeated Democrats a rallying cry.

Whether it was or was not Bin Laden, it was taken seriously enough for an alert to be sent to law enforcement officials warning them to watch out – even though it was not made to the public. The FBI sent out warnings to hospitals in several cities while others are turning skeptical eyes at the agency, wondering if they have any clue about anything.

If Bin Laden is alive, it will be, understandably, politicized. We are still marching, seems the consensus, toward the war with Iraq while we have terrorism undefeated – and the public debate is whether the two are connected. And all our billions have not caught this one man in a cave somewhere…

We are all, I think, confused. We are also frightened – of many things, including the economy, Iraq, Bin Laden, terrorism, lay offs, disease, a stock market that seems anemic and a corporate infrastructure that seems, in general, to be frayed and in disarray. One of them most Republican individuals I know threw his hands in the air this week in despair over the current government’s priorities.

Yet all our ordinary things go on. The holidays are coming and it seemed as if they would have been almost normal until Bin Laden spoke – he has a sense of timing this man.

Thanksgiving is two weeks away and many that I know are already beginning to head out to take time off and Christmas is around the corner. Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings are about to return.

But what is not about to return is the world we had before September 11th.