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Day Three Teil 1 : 2 : 3 : 4 : 5 : 6 : 7 : 8

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 teddy bears.
     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 everywhere.
     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, I suppose.
     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 do better.

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.

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