47th Street

Walking past the firehouse at 48th Street and Eighth Avenue at 6:30 this morning, two things brought me to a halt. The first was ladder truck 4 leaving, its rotating beacons illuminated.

(Contrary to popular misconception, New York’s emergency services don’t blare their sirens as soon as they roll. In our noisy city, firefighters, ambulance staff, and police use only as much noise as is necessary for their mission. We New Yorkers have become accustomed to the quiet “click” of a police car’s public-address system being turned on. One or two “clicks,” therefore, are usually enough to get us out of the way and don’t wake the sleeping).

This was the firehouse that lost all of those on duty on September 11. But it was staffed today. It’s the closest firehouse to the Broadway theater district. On the ladder of the truck were painted the happy and sad theatrical masks and the legend “Never Missed A Performance.”

The second thing that stopped me was a picture of my friend Rod Coppola, the WNET transmission engineer, amid the other memorials. He’s among the community of the missing.

The rest of the block has been torn down, emphasizing the firehouse. There’s a six-foot-high Statue of Liberty replica that I recall seeing at one of the Times Square souvenir shops previously. One notice on the wall was for an all-you-can-drink benefit at a local bar. Each business contributes in its own way.

As I rounded the corner to 47th Street, where I was working today, I came across dozens of police in front of the Hotel Edison. They weren’t New York City police, but they were working here and staying at the hotel. Their cars were parked on 47th Street: Coral Gables Florida, Corning New York, Elmira New York, a formerly unmarked car from Illinois, and cars from other cities, towns, and villages. Thanks, all!

Traffic was its usual, ridiculously heavy self on 47th Street, and there was a Traffic Department officer on the corner helping the flow. We needed to get rid of the TV-truck tractor, which was pointing the wrong way. That meant we’d have to stop all traffic briefly. The traffic officer seemed delighted to help. She diverted 47th Street traffic downtown and allowed me to stop everyone on Broadway. There were no complaints. No horns honked. And this was at the height of rush hour.

The poems of Def Poetry Jam were quite good. Some were touching and moving. Although I don’t know what it’ll be like after editing, I think I can recommend it. Watch for it on HBO.

I’ve now seen photos of the damaged tunnel of the 1 and 9 subway lines under the World Trade Center. Yikes! The estimate is that it will take two years to get them cleaned out and repaired. One portion has intentionally been filled with concrete to support the street above.

That seems to be the only severely damaged portion of the subway. Most of the other lines may be back to their diverted “normal” selves as early as next week.

The political scene here is providing fine entertainment. In the party that has a runoff coming up, the candidate that agreed to Mayor Giuliani’s plan to stay in office is now doing everything he can to distance himself from the mayor, short of retracting his decision. He said that he (the candidate) could have done an even better job of managing the crisis than the mayor has done. He pooh-poohed his opponent’s comment that he (the opponent) might appoint the mayor to head some sort of reconstruction commission, suggesting that such a move would be tantamount to having two mayors at once. And, when asked what he (the candidate) thought the mayor might do after he leaves office, he said, “He’d probably be best at managing the New York Yankees.” The prospective Yankees manager was, at about that moment, addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations.

I passed the firehouse again later today. Ladder 4 was returning from what I hope was another call (it was almost ten hours later). I felt a little uncomfortable about the people taking photos of the memorials. But the firefighters didn’t seem to be annoyed. Some were even smiling.

Life goes on.

TTFN, Mark

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