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 In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie.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

By Mat Tombers
March 18th, 2002

It came this week, the first anniversary in the long march of time away
from September 11. It happened Monday; it was the six month anniversary
of the event, marked by several things. On the day itself, there was a
morning ceremony in Battery Park, where a sculpture from the Tower - or
rather what's left of it - was temporarily erected. Thirty years ago
"The Sphere" was erected with the intention of honoring a free world
through free trade. Now badly damaged but remarkably recognizable [and
so very little is], it stands as a defiant gesture of a free world.

The two sons of one of the dead men read poetry and a bell rang to honor
the fallen firemen. It was brief and somewhat humbling, watched on
television. There was a moment of silence at 8:46, when the first plane
hit the first tower, and again at 9:03, when the second plane hit the
second tower.

Six months ago, Tripp called me and asked, "Do you know what's going
on?" And at that moment I didn't but when I turned on the television to
NY1, I saw one Tower burning. No, I didn't know what was going on and
in some ways I still don't know what's going on.

Sunday night there was a remarkable documentary on CBS. If you are one
of the three people in the country who don't know what it was about: it
chronicles one firehouse on the day of the disaster, told by two French
brothers who were doing a documentary, following a "probie" firefighter
from training through deployment.

More people saw it than almost anything else this year. All day I had
wondered if I was going to watch it. Oh, I knew I would turn it on but
I wasn't sure I would watch it all the way through. But I did. I did
not know if I would have the courage to relive that day.

Most New Yorkers I know approached the program warily, as if they were
approaching a very hot fire and weren't sure how close they could get or
how long they could stay. The most dramatic moments for me were in the
audio, in the thud of bodies falling and hitting. It took me to the
moment when, before I knew what was happening, I heard a soft thud and
thought we'd had a small earthquake. My own reactions that Sunday
night reinforced that my mind cannot quite mentally accept those
buildings are gone. When I saw pictures of firemen in the lobbies, I
could almost feel the marble under my hand.

Yet, on Monday night, when the second ceremony happened, and the Towers
of Light appeared, I went to the 24th floor of our building and saw the
skyscrapers of light pierce the night - I am so close the two shafts
seem to merge to one - and from the same platform that I could view the
tower of light, I could look down and stare into the rubble, and the
ruin. Yesterday thirteen more bodies were recovered. As they get
deeper they seem to find more bodies again, bodies that have been
shielded by all those tons of ruins, waiting through the cold long
months for discovery.

In some ways the city is coming back to "normal" and I find my patience
with the crowds of downtown tourists a bit on the short side. Excuse
me, I am trying to get to the subway! But yet I also understand their
need to come down and pay their respects. I am amazed by the quiet
reverence of the faces of the living as they peer into the faces of the
missing in the photos still pinned up on the wall near St. Paul's

You see, in my heart, I cannot quite grasp that two huge buildings are
gone and that nearly three thousand lives have been snuffed out. I can
not quite fathom that now our soldiers are in Afghanistan and that there
is more fighting in a land that has known so little peace. And I cannot
quite fathom that these people lived under a government that executed
women for not wearing a burka the correct way or chopped off hands as an
ordinary course of justice.

But then I have not been able to understand the wars in Rwanda. Because
I am human, however, there was a distance there. But the distance
between me and Rwanda and all the other places that are experiencing
suffering has been shattered because it is all now here, literally two
blocks away. It is the way with the rest of the world too. No, I am
not sure what is going on but I know - and feel - what is going on more
deeply than I have for years. I ache for the accidentally wounded and
killed in Afghanistan. I grieve for the Hindus and the Muslims in
India, who feel rage at each other and are translating that rage into
blood. I certainly do not know what's going on in Israel and Palestine
but I know the horror of it is all too real for me - and I want to see
it all end.

I am glad I have moved closer to "Ground Zero" because it has brought me
closer to the reality of what happened here in New York and what is
happening in many countries around the world. I am not sure I know
what's going on but I am sure that it is more real, more concrete,
desperately more present in my life than it has been for decades.