“We came from the north and we came from the south
With picks and with spades and a new kind of order
Showing no fear of what lies up ahead…”
– Phil Collins / Genesis: “Driving the Last Spike”
My emailbox continues to fill with messages from family and friends and acquaintances all asking the same question: Are you and yours okay? The short answer to this is yes, we are fine.
But everyone who lives in the New York metropolitan area has at least one story. Many of us have more than one…
My brother-in-law Barry is a senior executive at Morgan Stanley. Most days recently, he has been in his midtown Manhattan office, though he also had one in the World Trade Center. On Tuesday, he was downtown at the WTC.
When the first tower was struck, alarms in the second tower went off and people evacuated their offices. This is not the first time Barry has gone down some sixty flights of stairs; he did it in 1993 as well. A few minutes later, in the lobby areas, security people said that the building was secure and that people could return to their offices. Barry decided not to go back up; instead he and his secretary went to the office of a friend a few blocks away. Following his lead, it appears that many of his co-workers chose a similar path.
Barry, his secretary, and all of the people in his group at Morgan Stanley are alive today because of his decision. When I spoke to him on Wednesday morning, he could only sum up the experience by saying, “I am tired of being a part of history.”
My son Chuck was an intern at a division of Morgan Stanley this summer, He worked on the 58th floor of the WTC. On Tuesday morning, he was riding a train to the city from Princeton to meet a friend for lunch. From Newark, NJ, he could see the smoke and fire and wisely got off the train and onto one heading back to school.
Thankfully, all of the people he worked with this summer survived.
The son of my neighbor across the street is a New York City policeman who rushed to the scene. I have known him since he was born. He just recently got married.
When the first tower collapsed, he was buried under the falling rubble. Unlike many of his compatriots in the NYPD and the New York Fire Department, he was rescued some three hours later and will be okay.
My longtime pal and Marvel Director of Editorial Production (or whatever his title is) Bob Greenberger was returning on a flight from Indiana Tuesday morning. He said that as they approached LaGuardia Airport to land, they could see smoke rising from one of the towers. They all assumed there was a fire there.
As soon as the passengers disembarked, he said, “Everybody’s cell phone starting ringing!” They had flown in between the two attacks.
My brother Jim’s oldest friend (and someone I have known more than forty years) is a U.S. Marshall assigned to NYC. He arrived on the scene just as the first tower collapsed and had to run for his life to avoid the falling concrete and glass.
These are the stories I have heard so far, of relatives and close friends. We all have them and we will continue to hear them in the days to come.
‘THE SHOW MUST GO ON”
Two nights after the attack, Broadway shows reopened. My wife Laurie and our kids Chuck and Sammi had tickets for “The Producers,” which we had gotten months ago.
Though the city streets seemed a little quieter and you could smell the smoke from the fires still burning downtown, there was a sense of “we must get on with our lives” you could feel.
The theater was full, though there were some empty seats around. And before the show began, a spotlight shone on a man in the front row. “First of all,” said Rocco Landesman, one of the producers of the show, “let me say how glad I am to see all of you here. You are showing those who have done this that, despite their horrible acts, we are not afraid.” And the audience cheered.
”The show you are going to see is a comedy, and I couldn’t be happier that
it is a comedy,” he said. “I think laughter is a great bonder of people. I
don’t think anything could be better in terms of making a statement about
what is going on than to attend an event where we can all be together and
After dedicating the performance to “our fellow New Yorkers who
died in the senseless tragedy in the World Trade Center,” Landesman reminded us all, “We have an expression in the theater: The show must go on.” And the audience cheered.
And for a couple of hours, we were able to laugh at a show that so ably mocks the greatest villain of the past century, perhaps all of us hoping that the same will occur when the shock and sorrow of this current crisis have passed.
The show ended with cast and crew and much of the audience singing “God Bless America.” And the audience cheered.
This editorial by Gordon Sinclair, a Canadian television commentator, was forwarded to me by Barbara Kesel, head writer at CrossGen, (who I’ve always referred to as “the kid sister I never wanted”). It is well worth sharing:
<< This Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least appreciated people on all the earth.
Germany, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Italy were lifted out of the debris of war by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts. None of these countries is today paying even the interest on its remaining debts to the United States.
When France was in danger of collapsing in 1956, it was the Americans who propped it up, and their reward was to be insulted and swindled on the streets of Paris. I was there. I saw it.
When earthquakes hit distant cities, it is the United States that hurries in to help. This spring, 59 American communities were flattened by tornadoes. Nobody helped.
The Marshall Plan and the Truman Policy pumped billions of dollars into discouraged countries. Now newspapers in those countries are writing about the decadent, warmongering Americans.
I’d like to see just one of those countries that is gloating over the erosion of the United States dollar build its own airplane. Does any other country in the world have a plane to equal the Boeing Jumbo Jet, the Lockheed Tri-Star, or the Douglas DC10? If so, why don’t they fly them? Why do all the International lines except Russia fly American planes?
Why does no other land on earth even consider putting a man or woman on the moon? You talk about Japanese technocracy, and you get radios. You talk about German technocracy, and you get automobiles. You talk about American technocracy, and you find men on the moon – not once, but several times – and safely home again.
You talk about scandals, and the Americans put theirs right in the store window for everybody to look at. Even their draft-dodgers are not pursued and hounded. They are here on our streets, and most of them, unless they are breaking Canadian laws, are getting American dollars from ma and pa at home to spend here.
When the railways of France, Germany and India were breaking down through age, it was the Americans who rebuilt them. When the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central went broke, nobody loaned them an old caboose. Both are still broke.
I can name you 5,000 times when the Americans raced to the help of other people in trouble. Can you name me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble? I don’t think there was outside help even during the San Francisco earthquake.
Our neighbors have faced it alone, and I’m one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them get kicked around. They will come out of this thing with their flag high. And when they do, they are entitled to thumb their nose at the lands that are gloating over their present troubles. I hope Canada is not one of those. >>
This commentary was written in 1974. [I apologize if the copyright line is incorrect; none was included. I’ll assume it is copyright 1974 by Gordon Sinclair.]
In closing, here are two images at sites on the internet to look at:
One, by artist Mike Deodato, expresses the sadness of a nation…
The other, a photo from New York City forwarded by my pal Danny Adlerman, I have sent on to my friends and colleagues with the title “American Spirit.”
“I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant…” – Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto after the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
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