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 In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie.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

Christmas Weekend

Tomorrow I will pack myself onto the 2:45 Amtrak going north and settle
into the upstate house for the New Year's Weekend. Ice has finally
begun to edge the creek and most everyone I know is praying for snow
because there is a threat of the New Hampshire drought moving south.

Over the Christmas weekend up there, I was very aware of the ticking of
clocks. Almost the first thing I did when I walked through the front
door was to wind the old clock that had sat all my life on a shelf in a
hall at my parent's home, up until the death of my mother. It ticks
with a steady, heartbeat quality that can be quietly heard all through a
house. I can remember nights lying awake in my bedroom upstairs,
listening to the clock, tick, tick, tick.

Those nights I dreamt about being an adult - and here I am - an adult.
I live in New York City, spend the weekends in a house in the country
and have work that sits well with me. I realize how fortunate I am. As
I was saying good-bye to a business friend after lunch today we paused
for a moment in Grand Central before heading our separate directions.
Both of us ruminated on the fact that this Holiday season was a time of
people being better than they normally were - better than are normally
at a Holiday time.

Two friends of mine have told me that individually they have siblings
who can be either the good sibling or the bad sibling and you never know
who you're going to get for Christmas dinner.

This Holiday they both got the good sibling who was even better than the
good sibling was when it was the good sibling. Over and over I have
heard similar things from people. We are going out of our way to be a
little nicer to each other this year.

Both of my friends - and others - directly relate this to September
11th. It taught us how good things really are underneath. Many, if not
most of the people, I know have taken a step back from their lives in
the last quarter and realized just how good they really do have it if
you compare it with others all around us.

Yes, it's been a terrible year. Yes, the tech market has collapsed.
Yes, this. Yes, that. But we're alive and functioning. We have
shelter and there is food. There is so much. We are not mourning
someone who went to work one day and never came home. We are not
crawling our way back on donkeys to homes destroyed by more than a
generation of war.

If times have defining moments, we may well have just passed through one
and are living with its changes, growing with the times.

Yesterday, I woke to the NPR as I do almost every morning, and as I rose
through sleep to wakefulness heard about the fires ringing Sydney,
Australia. It was not an abstract vision for me. I have been to Sydney
a half dozen times, three of them in 2000. I claim friends there.
I have lived a great part of my life in Los Angeles and have lived
through fires there, with the strange sense of dread that accompanies
life's movements as fire leaps from one hill to the next.

When fires burned through the Laguna Hills in the 1990's a friend became
trapped in her garage when the electricity failed and was released by
firemen who came to see that her house was evacuated. And her house was
saved because it was there the firemen took a stand against the fire,
using her roof as a high point for their hoses and their war against the

I've always thought highly of firemen. They saved our house from
burning down on Christmas Day one year when I was a boy. But now they
have a special place in my world. Out there in Sydney 5000 firemen are
fighting the wildfires.

Yesterday, I realized that if there was an image for this year it was in
the face of a fireman I saw yesterday as his truck wound its way home
from a fire somewhere. It was the face of one man, indescribably
exhausted, exhausted further down than one day's work. It was the face
of a man who has buried 343 of his co-workers and who will watch another
300 or more go on permanent disability because of the effects to their
lungs from breathing the gases at Ground Zero.

I looked at the face of every other fireman on that truck and ladder and
realized each one carried the same look, a look of exhaustion and loss.
But what was amazing to me, what will remain with me and inspire me to
the last day of my life, is that they were there at all. They were
there, doing their job, being where they were supposed to be.

That is what has stayed with me while reading all the stories of the
people who lost their lives at the Trade Center. They were living their
lives, being where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to
be. They were doing their duty as they saw it, just as those firemen
were doing yesterday, doing their duty as they saw it, and being where
they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there.

It is what I take away from this year, 2001; that there is beauty and
dignity in doing what one should be doing when one says one is going to
do it. That in the simple performance of the actions of life there is a
glorious symmetry and structure and is the thing that is at the base of
all human accomplishment.