NEW YORK Many of the residents in Chinatown do not speak fluent English, but the stars and bars flying in and around their shops leave no doubt that they are Americans, and the terrorist attack that destroyed part of their city Tuesday has had a deep impact on them.
“Every morning when we woke up before we could see the World Trade Center,” said Nelson To, gesturing to the blue sky above the buildings. “Now we see nothing.”
The language barrier has proved to be a problem in the days since Tuesday as police set up barricades nearby, and some residents were apprehensive to leave their homes, partly because they cannot understand the police, said Donald Moy, whose father owns the Mee Sum Caf on Pell Street.
But aside from that, Chinese-Americans and other predominantly immigrant communities in New York feel the same fear, anger and disbelief as the rest of the nation.
“I feel so sad, you know, so sad. The buildings were very beautiful,” Moy said.
Near Chinatown, in Little Italy, reactions to the fall of the twin towers was much the same as elsewhere.
“To see them collapse broke my heart, said Alfonse Ferrara, general manager of Caf Napoli on Hester Street. “We can only pray and feel sympathy to the people who have lost victims in the tragedy, but we must go on and prevent such an incident from happening in this country or in the world.”
Ferrara said the terrorist attacks have caused him to reflect on being American.
“It”s such a great place to live,” Ferrara said. “I”m always flabbergasted by how great this country is whenever I go to other countries. I believe we will continue to succeed because we are such a great nation.”
He said the community in Little Italy feels much the same as the rest of America.
“We”re of Italian heritage, but most of all we”re Americans,” Ferrara said. “Most of us were born here, some of us served in the armed forces.”
But Little Italy is hurting economically, like much of the rest of New York.
The area is all decked out for a celebration that will not happen. The annual St. Gennaro festival, one of the largest the Italian community celebrates, was supposed to be one of the major events of the year, held from Sept. 13 to Sept. 22.
Instead of bustling around a restaurant bursting with hungry patrons, Caf Napoli”s waiters walked around vacant tables to serve their customers.
Ferrara said he increased his staff by 20 percent in anticipation of the celebration but since Tuesday has had to lay off the extra workers in addition to other regular workers.
In addition to the drastic drop in business, Ferrara said the shopowners in Little Italy are expecting to lose the money they paid the city to cover the cost of the festival”s maintenance and clean-up.