The Daily sent a pair of reporters and a pair of photographers to New York last weekend to cover the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York. The following are observations from their visit to the site of the tragedy.
Friday, Sept. 14
8:30 a.m. As we leave Ann Arbor, we hear George Bush”s Oval Office speech from last Tuesday dubbed over all manner of patriotic and popular songs and played on nearly every commercial radio station. The drive east on Interstate 80 is red, white and blue flags are flying from construction cranes and draped over highway overpasses. The flag is everywhere on our trip from the antennae of New York cabs whose drivers certainly are not from this country, to Times Square, strategically placed behind the MTV studio. In Jersey City, N.J., a couple tells us all the flags are sold out.
3 p.m. Since the car we are driving doesn”t have a CD player, we stop in Pennsylvania to buy tapes. As we come into New Jersey and can see the New York City skyline, Bob Dylan”s “The Times They Are a-Changin”” has never made more sense.
7 p.m. In Jersey City, N.J. thousands of people come out to cry together as part of a national candlelight vigil. The new skyline is truly surreal an unmistakable cloud of smoke rising in place of an unmistakable pair of buildings.
10 p.m. Our hotel is on 48th Street, less than a block west of Times Square, which is almost entirely empty. We turn the corner onto Seventh Avenue to look for a restaurant, but instead come upon the Engine 54 Station House. Fifteen firefighters are missing from this station, and residents are aware of that. They approach firefighters who are working 24-hour shifts to thank them, hug them, and cry.
Saturday, Sept. 15
10 a.m. The line is four blocks long and a dozen people deep as people wait at the Jacob Javits Center on 34th Street to volunteer their services.
A carpenter waiting to volunteer to remove debris didn”t expect officials would accept him because he wasn”t Union affiliated, yet he stood in line anyway.
“We”re all happy to be here,” he said.
So many people volunteered that overwhelmed city officials are eventually forced to turn them away. Businesses offered their wares and services pro bono all over town residents filled pickup trucks with food and water and drove them to volunteer workers and victims.
2 p.m. There is no trouble getting a cab anywhere in the city. Times Square is still empty, the only tourists around seem to be the ones who were in Manhattan when the attack occurred and haven”t yet decided to fly home. Some of them have made it downtown to take pictures of what can be seen of the rubble.
4 p.m. The smoke in lower Manhattan is so thick I can”t walk past South Street Seaport without a mask. It is when I can taste the acrid smoke that what has happened becomes truly real.
8:30 p.m. I interview Jill Gartenberg, a former University student who lost her husband in the attack. Jim Gartenburg worked on the 86th floor of Tower One, and though he was on the phone with his wife until shortly before the building, she is remarkably composed.
She admits that she is still in shock, but she seems representative of the feeling in the entire city over the weekend an incredible openness, a willingness to share and talk about what has happened. I am used to covering divisive issues. I am used to people not wanting to talk to me. Never have I seen one that united so many different people or moved them to speak. In a city known for its lack of patience, people who had never met comforted each other on the subway.
It is an impossible story to cover. More than 5,000 people are missing. There and are thousands of stories of tragedy tens of thousands of stories of