Our secretary Heather (who just moved here from Alaska, two weeks
ago) and myself are the only people on our floor so far this morning.
Yesterday we were essentially told the building would be open, but
after that it was up to us. And, as my ISP is down in the Closed
Zone (I called them "control zones,"), I can't do email
from home (and so won't be writing again till Monday), here I am,
at least for a couple of hours.
This morning it's raining, very hard, a
frog-strangler. I don't think it's rained this hard this consistently
all year. My pants are still wet and the tie's soaked through. This
has made rescue attempts pretty much impossible, today, not that
at this point anyone is really expecting survivors -- they were
saying on the news that the dust down there, wet, has the consistency
of oatmeal; and that with every half-inch of rain that falls, several
additional tons of weight begin pressing down on everything. The
subways down there have also all flooded, even before this, what
with water main breaks in evidently several locations (This water
of course is also soaking into foundations throughout the area).
It's also turning much cooler -- somewhere in the 60s today, and
yesterday afternoon it got up to the mid-80s, I think, and was humid
enough to notice.
It came to me this morning that the
reason 30,000 body bags are on hand for what appears will be 5,000
casualties is that the 5,000 are all in pieces, and each piece of
course will need to be bagged separately.
There was a drawing in the Daily News
today showing the outlines of all the buildings surrounding where
the Trade Towers stood, and noting that at least 9 of them have
suffered major structural damage. The Milennium (sic) Hotel and
1 Liberty Plaza I mentioned yesterday. Among the others in bad shape
is one of my favorites, the 1927 Bell Telephone building at the
corner of Barclay & West. It stands next to both the North Tower
and 7 WTC, both of which collapsed. It's a Ferris-silhouette art
deco beauty, and the building is built over the sidewalk on the
Barclay St. side, a stone arcade running the length of the block.
Cool in the summer.
It looks like the only residential
area fully evacuated was Battery Park City, where Ellie lives (she
is still staying with patrick & Teresa, I am hoping she's been
able to get some sleep soon). No word on when that'll open back
up but I can't imagine it'll be anytime soon.
This morning, coming out of the subway,
I was maybe one of three or four people. After yesterday, which
at moments almost felt like a normal day (or, rather, a day in the
gone world), today seems much more like Wednesday did, except far
more grim due to the rain. As all of you know in the rain New York's
color goes, essentially, gray. Very gray. And that's how it looks
today. With luck, it will at least finally clear the dust out of
the atmosphere (it struck me yesterday that one of the many interesting
things we've all been breathing in the past few days are bits of
infinitesimally powdered glass). But if the other buildings start
falling, the cloud will come back.
In this sort of weather in the past,
of course, the cloud cover overlying NY would generally be so low
as to hide the Trade Towers for view, and it was pleasant to be
able to fantasize, at such moments, what downtown NY used to look
like when they weren't there. I was reading, somewhere, that some
European is already saying that he & others will get all European
nations to help rebuild at least one of the towers if not both,
bigger and taller and clearly even more of a hideous target. Thank
you Europe, but no, please.
Here are the ongoing bigger or more
interesting changes in the event, both onsite and in media, that
I'm noticing. I talked about some of these last night with Clute.
1. The first media memorial teddy
bear site appeared. In Union Square, which is right at 14th Street
where the No-Traffic Zone begins. Some workmen brought up a piece
of steel from the Trade Towers and wrapped it around a stele, or
flagpole, or something -- they never pan up of course to show you
what the thing is, focusing instead on the flowers being left. The
one good thing is at this point, no teddy bears have appeared. It's
mostly single flowers and pictures of missing people, so I'm actually
not sure that a media-driven Mourning Zone will take hold. I suspect
because everything in New York is a Mourning Zone, and everyone
here is too much in shock, still, to even be thinking of those goddamned
2. The dawning awareness of New Yorkers,
such as myself & Ellen Datlow (who I met for a couple of drinks
last night, down in Chelsea, as she was finally able to get above
14th.), that this is actually being paid attention to out in the
country. A very funny thing, this -- the sense I think held to varying
lengths of time by people who live here that what has happened is
in some ways just the mother of all water main breaks. It's impossible
for me to really sense, that is, what the mood of a non-New Yorker
living in the US is just now, because even now I cannot see it from
a non-New York perspective. I always knew New Yorkers were the biggest
provincials and this just proves it...
3. Yesterday I walked from work (5th
& 53rd) to meet Ellen at a restaurant at 8th & 18th, down
in Chelsea. On the way down I saw a large group of people gathered
around the front of a souvenir shop, and realized they were going
through the postcards buying any with the Trade Towers on them;
saw people standing out in front of hotels, clearly not flying out
anywhere again today; and on all the mailboxes, in telephone kiosks,
on parked vans, on walls, the more the further down I got, photocopied
flyers with a photo and a name and a number. We see dead people
4. Anti-Arab action increasing, in
Brooklyn, but still I think on a smaller scale than what seems to
be happening in Michigan and elsewhere. On the day of the event
the Uzbekhi guys' frame shop in my neighborhood & Samad's Deli
immediately closed. The poor guys were obviously terrified they
were going to be overrun -- like anyone at either place would ever
have time to be a terrorist; they're always at work. Most New Yorkers
I think aren't buying into this, however.
5. But we can always count on the
reliable Richard Brookhiser, who in his NY Observer column yesterday
was baying for the nukes, and the Post as ever, came through. From
yesterday's editorial -- sic the James Ellroy-like use of single
sentences as paragraphs:
The heavens need to fall on their heads.
They need to bleed.
Not next month.
Not next week.
Who are they? Who cares?
Cast a wide enough net, and you'll catch the fish that need catching.
Clute actually didn't believe me
at first when I read this aloud to him. Notice how by the final
sentence the author sounds exactly like an Arab Terrorist Making
Ominously Vague Statements Directed At The West. Like attracts like,
6. The Disaster Videos. The gang in
the network editing rooms have had enough time to put together Meaningful,
Olympics-like Montages. Last night's on NBC at 12 midnight was scored
to Dylan -- I think it was Dylan, late Dylan, now that his voice
is indistinguishable from that of Joseph Spence -- singing "We
Shall Overcome." Better than Celine Dion, I suppose, but the
worst instincts of the media are of course beginning to emerge.
Paul McAuley tells me of seeing of UK TV the same thing I saw, though
done by different broadcasters, i.e. as PM put it "two grinning
journos demonstrated how easy it is to use MicroSoft Flight Simulator
to ram the Twin Towers. The street finds its own use for technology...."
Also, they're filling up the time with human interest stories, i.e.,
talking to someone holding up one of the aforementioned flyers and
saying that they can't give up hope, and talking to people who have
given up hope. Terribly invasive in both instances.
7. A shrink, around 11:30 last night
on ABC, was saying that it is completely possible to get PTSD (post-traumatic
stress disorder, no longer "syndrome.") through constant
watching of the event on TV. So not only will I be living in a city
in which nearly all the citizens, myself included, will to some
degree be effected by this for months or years, but a good percentage
of everybody else in the country, and the world, as well.
8. Probably in relation to the former,
I am having a very hard time wanting to know more about the ones
they arrested at LaGuardia & Newark yesterday. I haven't even
begun to process the event. I hadn't really begun to process the
event of my stepmother's dying suddenly, last week. So no, I can't
say I'd want to hear *what else* may happen. The desire to extrapolate
is, suddenly, gone. Clute & I were talking yesterday about the
limitations of metaphor which this event will bring about (he'd
better explain it, though).
9. I feel pretty sure that we're not
going to be seeing many new big budget blow-em-up movies at least
for a while, and we will never view the ones that have already come
out, in the past, employing the same eyes again.
10. In relation to some degree with
the former, the way in which, periodically, scenes I am viewing
in real life are reminiscent, or nearly identical to familiar scenes
in movies. One particular view of downtown last night could have
come straight out of Bladerunner, no problem; and a view from midtown
from the Empire State Building looking downtown, in a sunset-filled
orange cloud overhanging the city, looking almost exactly like the
old (Bantam, I think) cover of Walter Tevis' MOCKINGBIRD.
11. In relation probably to PTSD,
however small-scale, I feel myself at moments, for one of the few
times in my life (the other being at certain times in Russia, and
at the Galleries Lafayette food hall in Paris) at absolute sensory
overload -- that if I know another sensation, just at that moment,
I'll become ill. At that point I leave the room, or change the channel
to something else. Forbidden Planet was on last night, and I much
enjoyed watching it. It was science-fiction not set on earth --
12. I'm not sure that Blinky, standing
at his desk while expressing his concern, is better than Blinky
sitting at his desk, expressing his concern; but I suppose his minders
felt it gave him more of that Oprah feel.
And I think I've reached sensory overload,
writing about it. So for now I'll stop. More co-workers have come
in, but it's still not a normal day by any stretch. I figure I'll
be leaving around noon, as before. Hard rain, falling.
I'll actually leave the last word
to Paul, who closed his letter to me today with this; and I couldn't
The Last Night of the Proms, the traditional end to the Promenade
series of concerts, traditionally finishes with a rousing queasily
patriotic chorus of 'Land of Hope and Glory'. Not now: instead,
Leonard Slatkin will be conducting the orchestral setting of Barber's
'Adagio for Strings', which thanks to Oliver Stone has become
your plangent accompaniment to national mourning, followed by
the defiant thunder of the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth.
They've judged it right.