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From the Field
Week Three 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


Keeping a Stiff upper lip
By Michael Wilk
New Yorkers are a brave lot. It has now been a month since two hijacked jumbo jets crashed into the World Trade Center, reducing them to rubble, and killing more than 6,000 people. President Bush has declared war on terrorism, armed forces are advancing on Afghanistan, and some 500 individuals who were in one way or another connected with terrorist activity here in the ĎStates have been arrested.

The Taliban regime in Afghanistan refuses to surrender Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind anti-American terrorism, to authorities. And through it all, New Yorkers are still going to their places of employment, shopping, dining, and going to shows and movies. The city doesnít seem quite as noisy as it was prior to the terrorist attacks. People are actually smiling at each other, and being a little more polite as well. Traffic has been heavier than usual, due to spot checks on vehicles going over New Yorkís bridges, and vehicles containing one person are subject to scrutiny.

However, despite this appearance of "back to normalcy" amongst New Yorkers, there is a feeling of collective apprehension. Tuesdayís headline on the Daily News read, "Bioterror and the city", with 26 pages devoted to the possible threat of biological warfare, and what New Yorkers can do to protect themselves and their families. After reading that, Iíve come to the conclusion that New Yorkers must be brave.

We have been told to "return to normalcy" in our daily routines, and yet we are subjected to newspaper headlines such as the abovementioned. I am amazed that widespread panic hasnít spread throughout the city, after reading articles such as this. I havenít exactly been a shrinking violet all these years, but my heart pounds when I read about Anthrax, smallpox, nerve gas, and the like. I donít feel as secure as I used to.

A co-worker and I were just speaking, months ago, that Americans have been very fortunate, never having been subjected to bombings, such as the British in the London Blitz of World War II, or the Israelis, to which being subjected to terrorist attacks is practically a way of life.

And yet, I ride the subway to my job, buy groceries, shop, listen to music, watch television, and play with my dogs. I am attending a reunion from my high school, the High School of Art and Design, this evening. I will be seeing old friends, many of whom I havenít seen in over twenty years.

My dear friends, Harry and Nancy Lemay, have flown in from California to attend. A brave thing to do, in view of what has recently occurred. Other alumni have flown in from other parts of the country to attend as well. A dear friend, who was at the World Trade Center the day of the attack, is attending as well. She is a beautiful, brave lady. I can only imagine the terrible things she must have seen on September 11. Itís not quite the same thing, watching it on television. And yet, she is keeping a stiff upper lip. She hasnít lost her keen sense of humor, nor her kind and generous spirit.

Yes, New Yorkers have "attitude". They are also unique, coming from a wide and diverse variety of ethnic, cultural, sexual and economic backgrounds. And they endure.


A New York State of mind
BY MAT TOMBERS

On Friday, the third Friday after the attack on the Trade Center, I went down to Washington, D.C. for meetings with a client that had been postponed since the 12th of September.

Leaving my apartment on Spring Street, I walked west, toward Sixth Avenue. At the corner of Spring and West Broadway, I did what I have done every time I have crossed that intersection. I looked south. Until three weeks ago, the southern look was dominated by the World Trade Center. It was why I looked south. They were there; they dominated the horizon. Donít misunderstand. I thought they were ugly buildings Ė I had thought they were ugly buildings the first time Iíd seen them in 1978, during my first trip to New York. But they were huge. There was nothing else like them and in that largeness and that hugeness; there was something stable about them.

Friday morning, looking south, I intellectually and rationally understood they were not there. Emotionally, in my heart, it was not real. I had seen them burning Ė much more frightening through my own eyes than through the lens of a television camera. I had seen the smoke and dust and clouds that followed their collapse. I had worked my way uptown and downtown through the police barricades. I lived two blocks north of the evacuation zone. I was close enough to know this was real. But in my heart, standing at the intersection of West Broadway and Spring, looking south, my heart did not believe there was no longer a World Trade Center.

I have to be disciplined as I go by that street corner or I could stand there for hours, lost in my own personal exegesis of recent events, never to come out of it. At Penn Station, I was mildly surprised that the crowd was still as thin as it had been.

Pre September 11th, you had to fight for a place in the crowd waiting to board the north and south bound Metroliners. But you hadnít had to the Friday before when I had taken a train north and you didnít have to today, taking a train south. There was lots of room at Penn Station. People really werenít traveling that much. The train itself was only half full. It was the 7:30 Excela Express and it was, most times, a popular train. It was comfortable, new and delivered you into Union Station at 10:09, in plenty of time for an 11:00 meeting. I live in New York. I used to live in D.C. The two cities terrorists attacked.

On the train going down I observed that everyone was more silent than usual, people curled into themselves, luxuriating in the half emptiness, everyone took two seats and created a little cocoon for themselves. The ringing of cell phones was less tolerated than usual and someone who spoke too loudly into his was chastised by look. He was surprised. After all, this wasnít the quiet car. But we want quiet, all of us who live in New York. The streets are still more silent than they were. Laughter is returning but only slowly, only with a small sense of guilt. It goes quiet quickly when passing the bus shelters on Sixth, plastered with the faces of the missing and now presumed dead.

In D.C., walking out of Union Station, I could see the changes in security that had been made. The taxi stand was in a different place, further from the building. You couldnít drop off right in front; there were more police and, here too, fewer people.

In a cab, I went out to Arlington, Virginia, where my client has their offices. The route took me around the Pentagon, past the gapping hole in the building, dark and burnt, a gapping hole in a building, and a gapping hole in an institution. There is more quiet in D.C., too. Less noise and jostling.

I have meetings with a Brit who had spent four days in Halifax, Nova Scotia, grounded on his way back to the U.S. I lunch with him and another ex-pat Brit and they feel differently about D.C. than they did before. Never great fans; they now dislike it more. In New York, tragedy has solidified passions for the city; a sense of civic pride has been made deeper, deeper than even newcomers like myself could believe they would feel. After all, weíve only lived here two years. But I was here; we were here. We lived through the greatest nightmare in sixty years. We were here when the world changed. It has. We just donít know to what. Getting home Friday night, we stayed up late, talking.

For four hours, we talked and talked and talked and talked about the meaning of this, for us. It has made us more at home here. It has made us aware. It has changed us. My partner is constantly tired; his way of dealing with events. I sleep but with deep dark dreams that are confused and full of smoke and in living color. The reality is that we are aware that we live one and a half miles from the hole in the heart and we are affected, with ripples through our lives that we do not yet know. We all are affected.

On Saturday, on my way to a meeting, I pass people on the streets. Some are normal. Some stare deeply out into space, lost in some place I recognize in their eyes but cannot name. It is the place in the self where assessment of change, change in the heart, is being made. Who am I now? Now that the world has changed.


The City Observed
By Sam Hall Kaplan
This week, I was considering commenting on imaginative additions to two of our art and design schools, and a creative new campus downtown for the Southern California Institute of Architecture. I also want to talk about a new exhibit exploring what's hot on the local architecture scene, mounted by MOCA and on display at the Geffen downtown and the Pacific Design Center. And there is the drama of downtown development, the trials and tribulations of the efforts by the school district to build needed new facilities; the search for design conscious affordable housing, and the continuing threat to our fragile environment.

This is all grist for my mill, to which I eventually hope to add sugar and spice, and bake for you edification and enjoyment. But everytime I sit down these days to write about architecture and design, an effort that requires me to conjure up images in my artistic right brain as references for my literary left brain, my mind drifts to the scenes of the World Trade Center imploding.

Having in the distant past watched the center rise as a native New Yorker, written about it as a critic, and worked for a decade in its shadow, its destruction and the resulting deaths haunt me. But in a provocative way, the memory of the twin towers also renews my belief in the importance of buildings, of architecture and design, to define communities and cities, and to lend them a sense of place, and lend us a sense of history. Be it New York or Los Angeles, most everywhere, we tend to take our historic places and spaces for granted, until, of course, they are gone, and with them our communal connection to our past, present and future. That is why landmark preservation should be the cornerstone of any city planning effort. We need those landmarks, be they buildings or beaches, rows of houses or rows of trees. They are the stuff that anchors us to a place, and comforts us.

But what happens when they are destroyed, as was the World Trade Center? The towers were the focal point of lower Manhattan, an icon of capitalism, overscaled and overbearing, just like its host city, but beloved. And now where they stood is a void, a void that must be addressed if New York as a city, the United States as a nation, and we as its citizens, are to be healed and move on, to better and brighter times. Reshaping the space as a respectfully landscaped park alone will not do it. Indeed, I fear, it might result in accenting the void, more a reminder of the enormity of the terrorist act than of the victims who were buried in the rubble.

There of course should be a tasteful memorial. But I feel it should be a centerpiece in an urbane plaza bustling with life, edged by a distinctive cluster of office buildings, replacing and improving the 10 million square feet of space lost. And somehow emerging from the roofs of the scaled down structures I see light, delicate spires rising into the sky, to curve and weave together, to create a single, soaring luminous tower, taller and prouder than the original. To be sure, there most certainly will be thousands of proposals over the next several years, no doubt touching off a protracted, intense national debate; a debate that I expect that will be both healing, and heroic.
 



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