Eight million stories

As the announcer would say at the end of each episode of the old TV series, “There are eight million stories in the Naked City.” And, because any two New Yorkers usually have at least five opinions on any given subject, I have no doubt that some of us wanted military action.

One sign seen yesterday in Manhattan was “Peace is one Pentagon, one USS Cole, two embassies, and two towers too late.” It was carried by one of the counter-protesters following a peace march from Union Square to Times Square. Others included “Smile! You’re starring in the next Taliban propaganda film,” and “Traitors: Welcome to New York.”

“Honk if you love America” was undoubtedly carried by an out-of-towner. No New Yorker would ever encourage any driver to blare a horn.

Police estimates put the number of counter-protesters at about 50 and the number of anti-war marchers at about 10,000. In Times Square, there were some speeches, starting with an appreciation of the NYPD.

Reuben Schafer read a letter to the White House from the parents of his grandson, Gregory Rodriguez. Rodriguez worked in the World Trade Center for Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost a huge percentage of its employees — including Rodriguez — in the attack.

“Your response to the attack does not make us feel better about our son’s death. It makes us feel worse. It makes us feel our government is using our son’s memory as justification to cause suffering for other sons and parents in other lands.”

Before yesterday’s attacks, full-page ads opposing military action had begun appearing in the New York Times. I cannot recall any in favor.

The Times today ran a photo of the humanitarian food packages being dropped in Afghanistan. It’s not true that they are printed only in English. Most of the words are certainly only in English, but there is also a sentence in Spanish and French. Perhaps they’re being accompanied by leaflets in Pashto or Dari.

I listened to a nationwide call-in show yesterday after the military action began. Some callers favored the force; some didn’t. All but one sounded emotional. He was not a New Yorker and said he supported the U.S. attacks in Afghanistan. When asked by the host whether he was concerned about more terrorist attacks here as a result, he unhesitatingly responded, “No.” Then, after a moment’s pause, he added, “Well, it would be interesting to see what might happen.”

“Interesting.” That’s not the first word that pops into my head to describe September 11.

A New York-based Islamic scholar today suggested something he considered far more useful than military action. He noted that, despite the nice, sweet image George W. Bush is trying to give it, Islam, like many other religions, DOES have a concept of holy war. Osama bin Laden is using that concept to drum up support, and attacks of any kind on Afghanistan can play into his hands. But, according to the scholar, there is an absolute prohibition in Islam, even in holy war, on killing women and children. He suggested putting together brochures with the names of all the women killed on September 11. THAT, he felt, would do much more to hurt bin Laden’s cause.

On a local call-in show today, New Yorkers seemed to fear neither more terrorism nor working in tall buildings. A Canadian doing research here said he had been urged to put off his trip. He said others had hinted at making shopping or theater trips, but he thought they wouldn’t follow through. The host joked that it was important for out-of-towners to go to certain Broadway shows that he named, “because there are some sacrifices not even New Yorkers are willing to make.”

The same talk show earlier featured an architect, a construction engineer, and a real-estate developer. The developer noted there was more vacant office space in Manhattan on September 10 than was lost the following day. We were in a recession before the attacks.

Before the attacks, I often took the train between New York and Washington. It was usually less expensive (amazingly, flying costs much less than the train on weekends), it was roomier, I could listen to the radio, and, depending on where I was heading and the time of day, it took about the same amount of time door-to-door.

When National Airport was closed, the train became even more attractive. Even after the airport was reopened, with air passengers advised to allow two hours for check-in, the train was still ahead. But, since yesterday’s military action, we’ve been advised that we will need photo ID to buy the train tickets, presumably eliminating the use of self-service ticket machines. Lining up for the Amtrak ticket windows at Penn Station in New York is a form of purgatory.

The Attorney General today mentioned that 500 people had been arrested since the attacks. The New York Times reported on five of them today. They were arrested on September 11.

I recall the news bulletins. First, it was reported that they were in a truck filled with explosives, heading onto the George Washington Bridge. Then the reports dropped the explosives and the bridge but mentioned that they were men of middle-eastern origin and had box cutters. That turns out to have been pretty close. They were Israelis, and ONE had a box cutter, probably because they worked for a moving company. They are still being detained for visa violations.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been monitoring asbestos levels at a number of lower-Manhattan sites. In the first week after September 11, there was very little. In the second and third weeks, the level increased. But cars are now permitted into lower Manhattan east of Broadway. The restriction on driver-only cars entering the city below 63rd Street has now been cut back to 6 am to 11 am.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Today is Health-Sports Day in Japan. Today, for those who want to be very politically correct, is Discoverers Day in the United States; to the rest of us, it’s when Columbus Day is observed, one of our three-day holidays.

I was listening to the radio today, when a live report was coming in from northern Afghanistan. The anchor asked the reporter what was going on. The reporter barely got two words out when the host interrupted and said they had to go live to the White House. They did — and heard only the annual Columbus Day message. Quite some time later they returned to the correspondent, who’d been sitting on hold somewhere in northern Afghanistan.

I rode my bicycle over to the Columbus Day parade. The crowds were light, but that could have been more the temperature than anything else. On Thursday afternoon, it was 83 degrees in Central Park; this morning it was 39.

There was lots of flag waving at the parade, but many of the flags were Italian. The fire-department football team riding a float got the loudest cheers I heard, but a contingent of all of the flags of United Nations members, marching behind the blue UN flag, was also applauded and cheered. And, to my surprise, I DID enjoy the marching bands.

Returning, I passed the shrine in the lobby of my apartment building. It surrounds a notice about Josh Rosenthal, a neighbor missing since September 11. It always has fresh flowers and lit candles.

It is common for a notice of the death of a resident to be posted there. The notices usually stay up for a week or two. Once, someone was murdered in our building by her brother. He packed the body in a large box and asked the building staff for assistance moving it. That death notice was up only briefly. But Josh Rosenthal’s remains. No one has suggested removing it.

TTFN, Mark

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