“There are no words.”

It was only happening a couple of dozen blocks away, but I’d

come down from the roof, and was watching the World Trade Center attacks

on the television, just like the rest of the planet. The second tower

had just imploded, and the anchor on CNN said pretty much the only

thing to stay with me all day. There are no words: it’s impossible

to think, let alone write, the emotions and implications of something

like this.

I saw a lot of it from my roof, a lot from television, a lot just

riding around downtown Manhattan on my bicycle. The initial rush of

adrenalin when we heard that a plane had flown into the first tower

became unspeakable horror when we saw a second one do exactly the

same thing: at a stroke, we knew this was the most horrific terrorist

attack of all time. And then when things got worse by orders of magnitude

when the towers collapsed… there are no words.

Yes, New Yorkers will now live in the knowledge that they are vulnerable,

just like Londoners have done for years. But whatever has happened

in London just doesn’t compare to this. I worked no more than

three minutes’ walk from the World Trade Center for nearly all

my time in New York, and I know every street corner on the television

intimately. The Millenium Hilton (sic), Liberty Square Park, Vesey

Street, West Street – they look a bit like they do after a big

ticker-tape parade, only instead of being covered in celebratory paper,

they’re covered in the aftermath of tragedy and death. I spoke

to one friend today who told of a New York Post photographer who had

body parts flying past her on the West Side Highway; the guy next

door to me in my apartment building was on the 30th floor and, although

he got out fine, saw dozens of people either jump or fall out of the

80th story.

Rudy Giuliani has really come through today; when he gave a press

conference and announced that the fire chief and his deputy –

both good friends of his – had died, but at the same time kept

his eye very much on the bigger picture, he seemed a thousand times

the man that George Pataki, to his right, or George W. Bush, earlier

on the television, had. Far too many politicians, reporters, and pundits

have spewed far too many platitudes about evil and the loss of life;

most of us in New York aren’t going to be able to come to terms

with the magnitude of what has happened for a long time yet. I still

can’t believe that the World Trade Center isn’t there any

more, and it’s been a good 15 hours now since it’s been

gone. It’s not just a part of the skyline: it’s a part of

every New Yorker’s life. When you’re disoriented coming

out of the subway, you just look for the World Trade Center, and you

know that’s south.

Personally, I can’t think of any single deliberate event since

Nagasaki in which so many people died. I don’t know whether today

is going to change the course of history, but it certainly puts a

final full stop to the glorious decade of peace dividends and bull

markets that we had from 1990-2000. If this is the 21st century, I’m

not sure I want to sign on.

What today has done, though, is remind me of the value of my friendships,

and how good our life really is. To everyone I ought to have been

in touch with more recently, to everyone whose phone call I never

got around to returning, to everyone I should have spent more time

with (which is everyone I know, really): I love you all. Maybe we

need something unutterably bad to remind us of what is really important

and good.

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One Response to After

  1. Arya says:

    I think that this is the worst moment in American History. I with their leader Bin Laden, I just hope that his capture and his death would be a triumph not only for the Americans but also for the world.

    Arya from mandoline professionnelle 

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