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No, not the one out there in Sin City, but the original on the island purchased for a chest full of beads and trinkets.
Most Significant Other and I decided to heed the words of Mayor Giuliani and visit the city that truly "never sleeps" in hopes that our meager spending might forestall somebody's pink slip.
To paraphrase an old television commercial - It's not your father's NYC anymore. In a land where "No Eye Contact" was the unwritten rule, good Lord how things have changed. We arrived on Friday night, traffic was non-existent. The Hilton hotel's lobby was virtually deserted making check in unbelievably quick.
We awoke Saturday morning, a cool and cloudy day. Like every other visitor to the city, we headed south to witness first-hand the deeds of September 11. Subway lines are closed south of Canal Street, so at that station we disembarked and slowly made our way up the stairway to the street. What struck me was the quiet. The hustle and bustle of NYC was absent. Uniformed police and the National Guard directed pedestrians eastward at Chambers Street. Parking spaces, a rarity in NYC, we saw in abundance. Slowly we walked to Broadway along with dozens of other visitors, the silence broken by the occasional emergency vehicle rumbling to or from what has become known as Ground Zero. Signs in stores announcing "Cash Only" confirmed to us that utilities were a long way from being normal. The security guard at the art deco Woolworth Building confirmed that Con Edison was working around the clock to restore electrical service to one half of that building which has remained in darkness. Temporary banks of telephones were on street corners so that nearby residents might have access to a telephone.
Slowly walking down Broadway, we noticed the heartbreaking, home-made posters started to appear on light poles and traffic signs. A picture along with a phone number and brief description giving intimate details which were never meant to be made public. "Birthmark under left breast", "Scar on inside right thigh". My throat thickened. These weren't just numbers we'd heard on CNN...These were people, moms and dads, lovers and friends.
St. Paul's Church on Broadway is now a disaster service building. Located on the west side of Broadway beyond the barricades which line the east side of the street. It serves as a refuge for the disaster workers needing a place for a quick bite of food, a place to close their eyes for a moment and rest or a place to wash the concrete dust out of reddening eyes. Looking west on Fulton street, we could see the burnt out remains of Building #5, every window missing from the structure.
At every intersection small knots of people would stand in silence, searing into their memory the sights which never should have been. Someone bumped me as we passed on the narrow sidewalk. Words seldom heard on New York's streets and sidewalks were exchanged in tones more appropriate for a House of Worship - "Excuse me"..."I'm sorry". Tight lipped nods replaced the blank stares more usually associated with the Big City. From the jumble of steel girders which was once the two towers to the surrounding buildings still coated with layers of dust, the evidence of the strength of America was seen. A flag fluttered from a girder. Plate glass windows had messages written in the dust. "God Bless and have mercy on us"; "Rescue Workers: THANK YOU!". Rare were the sentiments for revenge and retribution.
Saturday night and we thought we'd try to grab a show, but not having tickets quickly ended that thought. The empty seats in the theaters just a week ago are a thing of the past. Long lines of people, hoping that a cancellation would get them into the theater, were disappointed. The city was slowly returning to a semblance of normalcy. My head spun around at the blaring of a truck horn...A rescue vehicle negotiating a tight turn around a corner. That was the first horn I heard blow all weekend. By the end of the weekend, I could count the number of truck and car horns I heard blow on one hand...And on three of the occasions, it was an emergency vehicle choosing to use their horn rather than the siren.
While back at the hotel, we heard that the Empire State Building had re-opened for visitors. Grabbed a cab, waiting a total of five seconds for it. While walking the streets, I was afraid that if I raised my arm to stretch, a half dozen cabs would stop, all hungry for a fare. A bitter cold wind blew across the observation deck of what is again New York's tallest building. The night-time views of the city were awe inspiring, but on the south side of the building, people stared silently at the now changed skyline.
Late Sunday morning, we headed out of town. A cab pulled in front of me, cutting me off and forcing me to hit the brakes. The cabbie pulled back into his lane. At the next traffic light, he rolled down his passenger window. "I'm sorry," he called out. MSO and I exchanged glances. "Did that cabbie just apologize for cutting me off?" I wouldn't have been more shocked if Godzilla walked across the street in front of us. Gave the cabbie a "that's ok" wave and took the exit for the Holland Tunnel into New Jersey. On the NJ turnpike, as the view of the city in my rearview mirror continued to shrink, from the dark sky a cold rain began to fall...A appropriate ending to our visit.
And now the numbers: Missing - 5,219. Recovered - 314. Jobs expected to be lost - 108,500. Economic loss alone - Will probably exceed $16,000,000,000.
Numerical Update - 6/1/2002:
N.Y. - 2,823 were killed including those passengers on American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175.
Of these, 1,102 victims have been identified by the N.Y. Medical Examiner.
1,616 additional death certificates have been issued at the request of family members although no trace of those bodies
have been identified.
Over 19,200 body parts have been recovered.
105 individuals are still listed as missing.
108,444 truck trips removed 1,642,000 tons of debris in eight and one half months.
VA - 189 were killed including those
passengers on American Airlines 175
PA - 44 passengers were killed on United Airlines Flight 93.
3,056 officially listed as killed makes the acts of September 11 the greatest one day, mass murder in U.S. history
Numerical Update - 11/1/2003
After many months of investigation, officials have announced that the death toll of Sept. 11 has been reduced to 2,752. The number has been reduced through exhaustive investigation eliminating duplicate names, fraudulent entries and missing person reports which were earlier included but upon investigation were discovered to be unfounded. Of the 2,752 names, three names are still unconfirmed and the investigation continues.
Numerical Update - 1/23/2004
The final count of fatalities due to the 9/11 incidents has been finalized at 2,749.
And two important telephone numbers: 1-800-HELP NOW and 1-800-GIVE BLOOD. Use the first to make a financial donation to the Red Cross, the second to donate something that's always in short supply.