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From the Field
Week Four of AMERICA FIGHTS BACK, Thoughts....
As journalists we go out and get the stories -- the facts. The attacks on New York and Washington, DC have had many of us thinking and soul-searching.
Learn about the industry from professionals working in it! Read "From The Field" for the latest happenings in the field.
Now, radio and television journalists from all over share their feelings. If you'd like to share your thoughts send them to Hal@HalEisner.com

New York Journal
By Nancy LeMay
My husband and I spent the first week of October in New York; the trip had been scheduled before September 11 and we did not cancel. My husband felt strongly that we were needed there by family and friends (we were), and that going to New York would be an important political statement. I kept a journal on the trip and these are some excerpts from it:

<10.1, 8AM at the hotel>
I think that, right now at least, being here is such an act of defiance that it's making me feel better. The relief in people's voices- Mom, Carol, Michael, Debbie and Milton- is so palpable that just being in New York is having the effect I hoped it would have. For now. There are already souvenirs of the event; in a store near the hotel there is a small metal casting of the buildings resting on a map of the world, with 'September 11, 2001' etched on the base. American flags are everywhere, and there are more large ones here than in LA. Here is a telling exchange, between my sister and me. I had expressed a desire to go downtown to the WTC and see it for myself. "Don't go. You don't want that impressed on your memory forever..." is my sister's advice. {She was especially concerned about the smell- she had heard it was very strong. It proved not to be}. For me-it already is impressed on my memory forever, and it needs to be cemented there in a way I can really use-in a physical reality which is more personal.

<1:25PM>
I knew the view down 6th Avenue would be different; what I did not realize is how completely open the space around the Trade Center would be. Now, instead of the buildings right in front of the WTC, and then each of the towers, you see American Express and then the World Financial Center buildings immediately to the south-and much too much blue sky. What must that {the attack} have looked like from up here on 50th Street? It must have been beyond comprehension. Buildings are not supposed to vanish. The city is quiet and subdued. The people are subdued; coffee shops and restaurants do not play music, or if they do it is very soft music. This is odd, but it reminds me of how powerful a collective experience this is for all these millions of people. There is very little laughter. I am convinced now that getting as close to the WTC as possible is essential.

<11:55PM>
I have the sense that I am living in the past. That there is a time machine through which we have suddenly been propelled, back to Europe during the '40's- back to London during the Blitz. It is this feeling of siege-we are a target. We look to the skies when we notice a jet overhead-we turn to see who is driving the gas tanker that's just passed us on Second Avenue. And its' the feeling, too, that in some measure life has stopped as we try to regain our breath and balance. In my private moments it feels as if I can't hold any air in my lungs- I can't get my breath. When the fear creeps back in, (which it does in unpredictable moments), I do again feel horribly alone and vulnerable. When I'm talking with my friends I feel empowered. I'm doing something-the only thing I actually can do; to continue to live my life. I do love my city as if it were a person.

<10.3 Heading downtown to WTC>
We came up out of the subway at Canal and Lafayette by mistake; we were a bit east and a lot north of where I wanted to be-City Hall. I was disoriented-which street is which and where do I go? Quickly I realized the problem: there were no Towers to use for orientation. But we found our way. Chambers Street at Greenwich Street was as close as we could get-(about 5 blocks away), and police lines held there a changing group of about 30 or so people. Greenwich ended at a pile of rubble at least 4 or 5 stories high; it was mainly a terra-cotta color, with white smoke rising up in front of and behind it . To the left and the right of this enormous pile were the remains of the low black buildings which shouldered up to the North Tower-the place where I used to get my coffee had been in the building on the left {5 World Trade Center) I prevented myself from crying as I stood there, but I did shed tears. Being able now to compare the American Express building (where I had worked in 1989) to what was- and should still be-it's partners across the street was really the heart of this compelling reality. I could now see in my mind's eye the plane screaming overhead, coming fast from behind me and slamming into the North Tower. I can hear it and sense the impact in my chest. And, in true 1:1 scale, I can see it collapse behind waves of people running toward me, followed by billowing smoke, paper and disintegrating concrete. American Express, shining here in the sun is, at about 50 stories, roughly half the height of the North Tower. I remember this, and the scale becomes overwhelming.

<10.5>
New Yorkers are, and will continue to be, haunted by this event. So will those who visit the city regularly; the hole left by the missing towers is immense and is noticeable from the near parts of three states, not to mention nearly every corner of the city. On the subway you notice vacant stares. People are not reading books and magazines as they usually do; they are sitting in thought and you see that the thoughts disturb them. The trip greatly eased my fears; I think this is true for two reasons. We were there for our family and friends in what had to be their darkest hour, and the act of coming together helped everyone, including my husband and me. We got as much as we gave to the folks we love. (I felt an unexplainable love for 8 million people I don't even know.) And second-we faced our fears. Looking directly at this atrocity did make it even more personal and real for me, and steeled me for what is to come. This will continue to be an experience unlike anything our generation has ever known. It's time to be the biggest people we can be.


The One Month Anniversary
By Matt Tombers

It is the one month anniversary of the disaster at the World Trade Center. What do we call it, this earthquake in the civic seam of our world? A disaster, an attack, the event, the incident, the tragedy? Iíve heard each of those words used to describe the events of September 11, 2001.

We crossed the Rubicon in some way that day. This afternoon I spent some time on the phone with an old friend in Los Angeles, who was convinced "it" would all be over within a year. If "it" werenít, weíd attack! More than we are now! What, I wondered, would we exactly attack?

Terrorists arenít countries. Thatís what makes this so scary. Another friend had dinner with me on Monday night and told me that every reaction she had felt, wrong. She didnít know how to process all of this. Living both in the Midwest and on the West Coast, she was distant physically from this but she is very much a citizen of this country. Sheís not alone.

Almost everyone I know, especially those outside of New York and Washington, donít know exactly what to feel. Her reaction is the same as my sister-in-lawís or other friends. How do I deal with this? Thatís what I was thinking as I walked around lower Manhattan this late morning. Itís a glorious day in Manhattan, all up and down the east coast. It is as gloriously beautiful a day as September 11th was. Beautiful days fill us with a sense of dread these days Ė or they do at least to me -- but I donít think I am the only person who casts an occasional anxious look at the sky, just to be certain.

Today, for the first time I went down close to Ground Zero, as close as you can get, right up to the edge of the barricade. Wisps of smoke curl up to the sky, still. And where those buildings once stood is a pile of dark rubble, eerie in its black grey burned hulk that suggests what it once was. But looking at it this morning, there was little that suggested this was the place from which rose two of the tallest buildings in the world. Goosebumps went up my skin.

As I walked back uptown, I wondered if Aeneas had goose bumps like this when he turned his back for the last time on fallen Troy, smoldering in its ruins as he gathered his little tribe of followers to set off to found what would become Rome. Everything we do seems fraught with meaning.

With news reports telling us another attack could be imminent, good-byes are more meaningful and "be safe" has become the new farewell. Against this backdrop of confusion and disorientation and fear, there is a new normalcy which is falling upon New York. Cab drivers honk their horns at one another, people curse. It is almost a relief to hear these sounds of civic disorder. People are attending the theatre again. Broadway attendance is below last year at this time but itís not catastrophic. Upscale restaurants tend to be empty, pubs tend to be full.

In one of them last night, meeting briefly with a literary friend, a book publisher cast into the world of freelancers by this past yearís economic decline, I witnessed a group, much younger than me, play with each other in ways that seemed "normal". As in the way they might have acted before all of this began. The cry seems to be: give me comfort food and give me beer. Send over that order of French Fries! I feel like a malt, either with ice cream or ten years old.

We are attempting to act normal, to attempt to find out what is normal today, October 11th. We are not normal. Sunday night, as bombing began in Afghanistan, I drove back into New York from a weekend in D.C. where I had attended the Human Rights Commission Dinner.

As we drove back into the city, a difficult journey was made longer by the security measures in place. Going over the George Washington Bridge, state troopers watched us go by, shotguns at their side, waiting. Cars were searched one by one as they entered the Lincoln Tunnel.

In a meeting Tuesday morning I met with someone who had spent two hours in a taxi because he did not want to take a subway. Leaving there I was off to another meeting but I never made it because streets were so clogged I had to reschedule. Fifth Avenue was closed; east-west streets in the 40ís were also. The man I was to meet said not to worry. The same thing had happened to him. Third Avenue had been closed because of a bomb threat.

For another of my clients, I walked to a meeting south of Canal Street, past the guards, both police and National Guard, and thought about my cousin, Marion. Now in her eighties and living in the great American Midwest, Marion talks about how she lived in New York during "the war years." As I walk south on Lafayette, past the soldiers and police, watching the soft white curls of the still smoldering fires at Ground Zero, I wonder: am I living in New York during the war years?
 



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