photo: NOAA                
Mostly north tower and 5WTC wreckage, photographed from just under 3000 feet, 23 September 2001. (Click image for more detail.)

Four more fortnights on the perimeter:
previous 11 to 24 September | next 9 to 22 October | 23 October to 5 November | 6 to 19 November ||

Updates and corrections || ... and after || 30 May 2002: Job done? || Winter Garden photo update ||
What next? || Greenwich Village park continues tradition honoring fallen firefighters

<wtc map>
1 WTC: North Tower
2 WTC: South Tower
3 WTC: Vista Hotel
4 WTC: Southeast Plaza Bldg:
      Commodities Exchange
5 WTC: Northeast Plaza Building
6 WTC: U.S. Custom House
7 WTC: Tishman Center

1 WFC: Dow Jones
2 WFC: Merrill Lynch
3 WFC: American Express
      (north of Winter Garden)


Circumnavigating the frozen zone               

Five fortnights walking the perimeter

Fortnight two

25 September to 8 October

copyright © 2001-2005 Diane Fisher,
except photos copyright © 2001-2005 by the respective photographers.
Tuesday, 2 October: The city has stopped reeling. Nobody would claim on this three-week anniversary that NYC's back to normal, but it's behaving normally. The energetic restoration campaign is in full swing.

If you stand in Sixth Avenue at Prince Street, the Millennium Hotel (whoops--the owner spells it Millenium) and 1 Liberty Plaza--to my surprise--are prominent in the view south <photo update, April 2002>. Like the Cortlandt Street side of the Century 21 building and others nearby, their WTC sides are draped from roof to street in protective international orange mesh--presumably steel, presumably confines falling glass and debris. The smoke from the fires at their bases has subsided noticeably, the mob has been accused of looting WTC dump sites, and con artists have started trying to scam victims' families; somehow the Internet has been implicated. Streets west of Broadway are scheduled to open down to Park Place.

The phone company building at Walker Street has interesting Buck Rogers-ish new antennae on the roof instead of the usual microwave dishes. But I see no signs my favorite FM station will ever be back on the air, and two network tv local affiliates still broadcast a signal that doesn't reach downtown Manhattan. I have yet to set up the new equipment I bought to compensate.

I feel somewhat reassured by signs that the administration seems to have caught on that leveling Kabul might not be the smartest way to prevent future variations on 11 September. Although alarm in other capitals at the initial war mongering must have had some effect, no heads have rolled in Washington, leaving me feeling as vulnerable as on the night of 11 September. Now, "House panel suggests revamping intelligence" ("House Panel Calls for 'Cultural Revolution' in F.B.I. and C.I.A.")? Now, "Pentagon says homeland defense is top priority"? Consider "Earlier Hijackings Offered Signals That Were Missed" (NYTimes, 3 October 2001):

"This is a whole new world for us," Jane F. Garvey, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, said in testimony before a House subcommittee on Sept. 20.

But the record shows that for her and others, there were numerous warnings. [... T]he 2000 edition of the F.A.A.'s annual report on Criminal Acts Against Aviation, published this year, said that although Osama bin Laden "is not known to have attacked civil aviation, he has both the motivation and the wherewithal to do so," adding, "Bin Laden's anti-Western and anti-American attitudes make him and his followers a significant threat to civil aviation, particularly to U.S. civil aviation." The previous year's edition of that report said that an exiled Islamic leader in Britain proclaimed in August 1998 that Mr. bin Laden would "bring down an airliner, or hijack an airliner to humiliate the United States."

But farmers' markets are operating and I, by nature a recluse, want to sit in sidewalk cafes and not cafe gardens all the time now with my few friends who haven't moved upstate or to the West Coast, or alone in proximity to strangers chatting with each other. I've never seen sidewalk cafes in my neighborhood busier. The friend who charmed that audience at 5WTC tells me that Jeannie's CNN interview of me, which I'd just assumed was scrapped, in fact aired; he saw it in California. Behold, I've achieved triple-A status. That's what Daily News reporters used to--maybe still do--call those assignments: ask any asshole. I never want to travel farther than Hoboken--and then briefly. But that's not for fear of hijackers; I was flying-phobic long before the KKK of Islam attacked America. I'm so glad I live in this city. If the new auto regulations continue, if we have a new mayor who endorses the Bill of Rights and dismantles the decency squad, and if the winter is mild I'll still feel the same way at the beginning of March.
Friday, 5 October: By announcing that he won't try to extend his term, in my view Rudy straightened the new halo he'd knocked askew. I'm even willing to entertain the possibility that his motives in raising the issue were unselfish and not about locking the city into contracts with his supporters. On the day after the attack, when I reluctantly said to a friend that Rudy was turning out to be terrific in a crisis, Rod said, "Maybe that's why he turns everything into a crisis." But for the City of New York the attack's fallout will be an open-ended crisis. I hope that one of the candidates who remain will discover a voice--none have so far--as reassuring as the transformed Rudy's.
Some sacrificial heads have rolled at the F.A.A., which doesn't come close to getting at the intelligence and oversight failures that let the attack happen. Well, at least the grownups seem to have taken charge: The uncertainty of what irrational thing Washington might do next no longer terrifies me.
The forecast suggests that climatically this is the last day of summer and I decide to retrace my steps of 11 September. When I reach Varick and Canal streets I realize that I must have been somewhat in shock from the moment I saw the first image on the tube. While I have no memory--either--of walking a block west from my muffin place, SoHoMade Soup on Varick, to Hudson Street, where the Canal Street Holland Tunnel entrance is, I must have done that right there at Charlton. My rush south--almost all of it--had to have been on Hudson, not Varick and West Broadway as I'd thought. As I walk down Hudson now, while I remember glancing eastward that morning at the loft building on North Moore Street where J.F.K. Jr. lived, and across Hudson at an old haunt, Puffy's, I still can't retrieve where I cut another block west, to Greenwich Street (like, it matters?). The "deli" where I momentarily considered stopping to pick up a container of coffee, I see now was in fact ... a supermarket? I'm not going to go back and edit those errors. I think it's useful to leave that evidence of the shaky reliability of eyewitness testimony.
Notices of neighborhood meetings on various recovery issues with various city officials are posted all over Tribeca. Residents can go home now on many if not most streets without showing IDs at checkpoints. Battery Park City is a different story. If I am sanguine about the ongoing travails there, blame the BPCAuthority, which abdicated its mission to build mixed-income housing; residents of those luxury buildings have the wherewithal to withstand hardship.
The phone company--whatever it calls itself these days--took an awful hit. Service at first varied by neighborhood. I didn't know anything was wrong with mine--I had no trouble with local or NY state calls coming or going--till Dick called from D.C. a week and a half after the attack and said he'd been unable to get through till then. Phones south of here still are out. I'd planned to get cash from a branch of my bank that's across the street from City Hall. It was not to be. Absent electronic services, bank branches south of the West Village are closed.
Although upscale restaurants that rely on uptown, Westchester, and tourist trade have been on the radio letting it be known that they're in a hurt, except in the frozen zone signs of ongoing commercial recovery are steady. The south side of Chambers and west side of Broadway now are open to foot traffic, the Tribeca farmers' market has moved to a different corner, stores are sponsoring special promotions. The new J&R Computer Outlet building has been vacuumed and the boarded-up door reglazed <photo update, June 2002>; boxes are stacked high in the audio/video outlet. Employees say J&R hopes to reopen by the end of next week.
The smoke is bad today and again I regret not bringing my mask. I heard later on the news that a big fire had flared in the wreckage. I stopped carrying my SW/FM/AM radio after the first week.
<map: the frozen zone> The writing on the walls has changed. Poetry is not uncommon. A well-chosen Walt Whitman verse is posted on the south side of Maiden Lane. Marc wrote a poignant, unabashed obit for his friend since they were five, Joey, and posted it on Broadway at Liberty Street. MISSING notices are mostly gone except for new notices for the M.D. Her practice was on Staten Island; she was last seen leaving Century 21 at 7.18 p.m., Monday, 10 September. Hmmm.
What you see everywhere now are messages from everywhere--thanks, tributes, and prayer support. On the north side of Canal between Varick and Hudson are a storefront relief station for rescue workers and supplies for passersby to write terse personal messages, which then are posted all along that block and around the corner. Of the hundreds of thoughts, one stands out, a message that says simply, "I'm so sorry." On the perimeter of the frozen zone are messages from schoolchildren nationwide. Cub Scout and Boy Scout Troop 330 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, we hear you. Mr. Laraway's and Mrs. Phe's kids at Silver Oak Elementary School in San Jose, we hear you. Your sunny messages are posted on building after building on Broadway. We hear you, Long Island. Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, we hear you. Murals hang from the wrought iron fence around St. Paul's. A fire engine in front of St. Paul's was plastered with messages. Thank you, everybody, everywhere, thank you. You are heard. You are here.
My brother keeps insisting that the nation grieves with us. I can't seem to convince him that we fully understand that. We really do.
I'm across Broadway from St. Paul's having coffee and a chocolate chip cookie. Luisa sits down on the stool next to mine, plunks a pizza box on the counter, and asks me a question that suggests she doesn't know this part of town at all. Indeed, as it turns out, she's just arrived in town. Today is Friday; she's been carrying the pizza since Tuesday, via D.C., from home, Chicago: comfort food for an old friend who works on Maiden Lane, her next stop. Luisa faked a business trip to D.C. to get here. She doesn't know why. She just needed to be here, she says.
Dey Street at Broadway is hardly more than an alley, and I'd neglected to stop and look carefully before. Or maybe wreckage removal changed the perspective. The buildings on each side now isolate the frame of one distinctive structure <photo update, June 2002>. A woman standing next to me asks what it was. I answer sadly, the Winter Garden.

photo: Mark Mozaffari      
      The east side of the Winter Garden.
My brother, an engineer on "Mountain Stage," wrote to me that Larry said to the audience at the first show after the attack that "we would never take anything for granted again, that we would have a new appreciation for every good thing that comes our way." I knew I liked that building; I just hadn't realized how much. I read someplace that people raced there for cover and were killed.                      

A woman on Broadway at Liberty points out an unsigned personal message someone from the Netherlands added to the Oak Hills Church mural. She says she's especially interested in the San Antonio mural because she's come up from Texas. She can't explain why. She just needed to be here. Her 12-year-old son can't understand why she feels so personally affected. Her nine-year-old gets it.
It's odd, this business of who feels it personally and who doesn't. Joan Didion is on a book tour, and I heard her interviewed after returning from the West Coast. L.A. and Oregon don't get it, she said; Seattle does. L.A., it seems to me, regards it as a mechanical problem, or a creative and commercial nuisance--but concern over the planes that had been destined for LAX may have overshadowed others. I find Hollywood's rush to airbrush the WTC off the NYC skyline unseemly. Up in Silicon Valley, one week--exactly one week--after the attack a developer complained in his weblog that "The wounds are not healing quite as quickly as one might hope." You don't get closer than that to absolute zero. Hard to believe Silver Oak Elementary School is on the same planet, let alone may be right down the street from him.
The woman from Texas thinks we're all changed forever. I express agreement. I think it goes without saying that we're still traumatized; it's far too soon to know how we're changed. This has brought us all closer to God, she says--something to that effect. Uh-oh. When I'm unresponsive, she repeats it and waits. Cornered, I admit that I'm a nonbeliever. She doesn't blink: Then how do I think we've changed? She wants an answer, so I say, We've stopped being afraid to be kind to each other. I don't add that I only wish that were forever. We're both uncomfortable and move on. What we all will take away from this event depends on what we brought to it.
Monday, 8 October: The end of post-attack week three. Notices for the missing M.D. are posted from the Battery to the Village and who knows how much farther north. One near my house has been defaced pornographically. I have a friend I've known since before I first saw that once stark block that's now arbored. Ed lives in the block where the firehouse is that lost 12 men in that earlier conflagration. Our apartments are less than 10 minutes apart by foot; we get together about every 10 years. I found a photo--nothing written on it back or front--taped to my building's front door Saturday that only he could have left. Ed says he's been watching tv news nonstop, binge-eating, and leaving donations at the firehouse door.
Today he makes the Hoboken run with me. He's seeing both Hoboken and the frozen zone for the first time and, as I'd expected, Hoboken surprises and charms him. We walk most of the way out to the end of the pier and gaze across the river. We used to drive eight hours each way on stolen weekends together for that. Once when his TD's flexible oil line developed a leak the trip took 12 hours. After my father threatened to take me out of school if he found out we'd done it again, we had an accident (not the MG) on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and had to hitchhike home. The temperature today is in the 40s (that would be F), a northwest wind is gusting, but the sun's bright and the new scenic ferry route is in effect till further notice.
We smell the smoke for the first time as we near Battery Park. The U.S. started counterattacking suspect sites in Afghanistan last night and the city's on highest alert, which effectively seems to mean that cops and the Guard are on edge.
The Department of Sanitation is doing a valiant and mostly unsung job staying on top of everything that's going on downtown. Those busy streets and sidewalks on the periphery of the frozen zone are clean and trash baskets are rarely even half-full. Streets near ground zero are gray and puddled and Ed points out that vehicles exiting are being thoroughly hosed down. From even the time when the frozen zone reached up to 14th Street, non-emergency-mission vehicles have observed traffic rules, stopping at red lights and traveling the legal direction on one-way streets. The driver of a wet truck exiting ground zero south of the site bearing an enormous twisted steel structural member skillfully negotiates tight corners of narrow streets to circle three-quarters of a block.
One of the many fires now is in the southeast section of the wreckage and at Liberty Street gusts blow ashy droplets from the firehoses into our hair, onto our glasses and jackets. Marc's eulogy for his friend Joey isn't under the San Antonio mural anymore. I find another copy on a pillar on Broadway near Fulton. Ed waits without complaint while, fearing that this one too will disappear, I copy it by hand--I hope accurately:
My name is Marc and my friend Joey worked on the 105th floor of No. 1 World Trade Center. After September 11 I put his "missing" flyer all over the streets of this changed city, choosing my spots as if I were painting graffiti, looking for the best light, the easiest places to see my friend's face.
At 26th Street and Lexington, next to the Armory, strangers were nice to me, saying, "Hope you find your friend." I just thanked them and kept looking for more places where Joey's smile would catch people's eyes. It felt good to be doing something, not just sitting and mourning.
Joey and I met when we were five. His mother watched us every day after school before my parents came home from work. We went to school together for 11 years, and all those years I watched him. He was the coolest guy. I felt like the dorky kid he took under his wing. He showed me a lot of things, how to look cool, how to talk to girls. His father, a Vietnam vet and a retired NYFD fire fighter, helped me learn how to ride a bike. That was the first thing his dad asked me when we hugged each other, "Can you still ride a bike, Marc?"
Joey leaves behind his beloved family, girlfriend, and friends like me, lots of us. He will never know how many lives he touched. I have cried so much that I have become empty inside. My childhood hero has been stolen from me and I will miss him forever.
<photo of a little boy posed formally
next to an American flag, perhaps a school photo>
This poster was created for no other purpose than to help connect some of the personal story for one victim who died so he is not just a number. There are so many stories. This is just mine.

Ed doesn't say much about what's at the end of those narrow streets till it's dark and we leave behind the halogen-illuminated frozen zone. Seeing ground zero has completely changed his mind about what he thinks should be done with the site, he says. He believes now that after the wreckage is cleared it should be left as hallowed ground; nothing should be built.


Four more fortnights on the perimeter:
previous 11 to 24 September | next 9 to 22 October | 23 October to 5 November | 6 to 19 November ||

... and after || Updates and corrections || Winter Garden photo update || 30 May 2002: Job done? ||
What next? || Village park continues tradition honoring fallen firefighters || recommended reading :
Eyewitnesses, in their own words; heroes; Afghanistan then and now;
Israel and the Palestinians; intelligence gathering; on watching
what we say; some other politics; periodicals; and archives.

Copyright © 2001-2005 Diane Fisher, except photos copyright © 2001-2005 by the respective photographers.

adpFisher nyc 5 July 2002