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 In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie.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

Whither now?
By Mat Tombers

This morning, driving down Trinity Place to where it blends to Church,
going past the empty hole which was once the Trade Center, I passed
haunting images from those harrowing days in September. There is a
still closed Burger King with a sign spray painted on: Med Trauma.
There is the vast hole that gets bigger, more empty every day. Behind a
wooden wall, it looks like they are starting to repair the ravaged
Brooks Bros. store. Century 21 has re-opened but it is not as busy as
it was but it is open and their red and white bags can be seen again
floating through the subways.

We are moving away from September 11th in time and also,
psychologically. The feel of the city is different from before that day
but there is now a consistent rhythm and mental energy level that
encompasses those events.

But on an individual basis, one day at a time, one person at a time,
there are internal conversations going on about what this all means.
Those internal conversations are not unique to the citizens of New York
and its environs. It is part of the national internal dialogue going on
by many citizens and residents of this country.

Last week, I spoke to an old friend who has been laboring mightily at a
broadband enterprise and she has just now been laid off, an event she is
greeting with relief rather than despair. After two years of unending
days and nights, attempting to make technology work, she has gotten the
ax. In speaking with her, she told me that she wants to step back now,
is, in fact, eager to step back and take a look at her life and the
choices she might make going forward.

It has, she said, something to do with 9/11. Questions that came that
day for many of us have not gone away. Is this the best way to spend my
life? Our lives? Now that she is forced out of where she was, she is
going to embrace the change because that question has gnawed on her: is
this how I should be spending my life?

It is a question I know lives just beneath the surface for almost
everyone I know. When I asked Cheryl, who works with me, about it, she
agreed, though not for herself. For her, the questions began to be
asked when she decided to leave her position as Head Film Buyer for
Hoyt's in Latin America, based in Buenos Aires.

Her questions came because she was faced with making a decision.
Andrew, her partner, now husband, had been offered a position back in
the states - and in making the decision to return she asked herself all
the kinds of questions I hear my friends asking themselves now. How do
I want to lead my life? What qualities do I want it to have?

This was particularly true in the days and weeks just following 9/11 but
I am finding it still important - perhaps more important - than it was.
And it is that way because the question is not going away. Several
friends admitted to me that while they asked themselves the questions,
they assumed that the questioning drumbeat in their brain would dwindle
with the pile of rubble.

But it hasn't. Not for them. Not for me. I ask myself, almost daily,
if this is what I should be doing with my life. Is there something
more? Are there some good deeds I should be pursuing? Is there some
impact I can be making that I am not making? Is there a kindness I
desire to do that I have not done?

A lawyer friend talks seriously of stepping away from her practice and
going back into the Peace Corps. Another friend has joined the army.
Other friends are thinking of leaving New York, for some simpler place.
One set of friends is hurrying the rebuild of their country house so
that they can be sure of a retreat.

Friends sit and ponder over drinks and dinner about their lives and the
value they are both giving and receiving from the world they inhabit.
We talk and speculate and I see changes beginning. I will be making
more changes as I move through the weeks and months ahead, knowing I
want to do some good while doing well for myself. It is that part that
has caused me to raise my hand and volunteer for an AIDS agency and to
be on the advisory committee for a college.

All around me I see and hear people wrestling with their lives, of
wanting to live a better life than they did before 9/11, a life of some
greater meaning. And I know that many of my friends want deeply for
their lives to count for more than bank accounts, with time taken for
family and friends that was not taken before, with thought given to
quality as well as quantity.

It will be interesting to see where I go next in myself and where my
friends go. Where will you go?