I went to a perverted carnival today, walked down 6th Avenue to gawk with the rest. From 2 blocks from my street to as far south as I could see was a single column of parked Komatsu backhoes. An orange and white cat was trying to climb the front right tire of one, but it was too high for it to get a foothold.
At any moment along Canal Street now are more spectators than died during the entire ordeal: people wearing American flag hats and t-shirts, eating $3.50 hot dogs, taking snapshots, and griping about the poor view. A few middle eastern men were doing brisk business selling overpriced refreshments, and I overheard one guy comment, "You burn down our buildings and you want our money too?".
Many of the people looked like the type of people seldom seen in Manhattan, a family where every member is so fat that they have to lean backward when they walk in order to stay upright. The kids carry balloons, and play game-boys while their parents crane their necks to see beyond the bored and tired-looking policemen and women. I hated these people for their ogling, but realized I was there for the same reason.
There is still a lot of smoke, but yesterday's rain cleared out the lingering dust. I still can't actually believe what happened, and it's very strange to see a southern horizon without the twin towers.
I struggled to head toward Pier 40, which is a relatively quiet place where I sometimes go to get away from the noise of the middle of the city, but it was also full of spectators. Walking north I passed a few fire stations, one around the corner from my building. Each had hundreds of flowers and ribbons, and the gatherers seemed more respectful of the situation. I heard that 4% of all fire fighters who have ever died in the line of duty in the history of New York City died this past week. I felt some shame that I make a living sitting in front of a computer.
The most solemn vigil is at Union Square, where there is nothing to stare at. More people there have lost a friend or relative, and the hundreds of pictures taped to the walls are quite touching. Now that traffic is allowed below 14th street, however, the singing and prayers are disturbed by car horns and the rumblings of garbage trucks.
There was true unity here on Tuesday and Wednesday, but that has faded each day. Now we hear of lootings near the site, or of kids pulling out knives on a public bus and pretending to hijack it, threatening to drive it into the Empire State Building. At work also, on the first day back we all commiserated and shared stories, but on Friday we argued about what we should do, as part of the UN. The art director had grown up an air force brat and was unwavering in his ideas of encouraging American patriotic images. The editor felt that we still all needed to heal and reflect before doing anything. I was the only one who was critical of the rabble-rousing and encouraged greater education about the backgrounds of the suspected terrorists.
I've become a news junkie, listening to hour after hour of updates, then getting so sick that I can't stand another second, only to turn it on again after a few hours. Fox news seems to have the most irresponsible journalism, fanning the flames of anxiety that then lead to anti-Arab feelings and the search for quick solutions. But I listen anyway.
We have mail and garbage service now, and the local bodegas and laundromats are open now. It's convenient to have services back, but I actually liked the temporary peace. As old routines are fallen into again, the usual brusqueness of New Yorkers is back. As we go back to work, it's hard to sustain the initial outrage and desire for action, and I'm afraid that the only people that are able to are the jingoists whose zealotry matches that of the hijackers.