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New Yorkers Defiant After Terror Attack - 2001-09-13

Tuesday's terrorist attack, which destroyed the World Trade Center in New York, sent the city reeling. But there are already signs that New Yorkers are bouncing back, with a combination of resilience and defiance.

In their own way, New Yorkers struck back at terrorism Wednesday. Scores of city residents gathered along the main rescue route on Manhattan's lower west side to cheer every official vehicle that passed by - from ambulances, to military humvees, to dump trucks laden with debris from the World Trade Center.

Karen Polsonetti was among those cheering, as police and fire rescue vehicles roared past. "This is the most I felt useful all day," she said. "You know, like, I just feel useful while I am here. And, all these people, you know, the girls that made those signs that say, 'Thank You.' I wish I had thought of that, you know."

Kim Denster was one of several city residents who held up 'thank-you' signs, as a steady stream of official vehicles moved past. "Oh, it's terrible. I feel better today, because I feel like I'm doing something to support the people that are working. I don't have the skills to go work," said Kim Denster.

James Davis also joined those cheering on the rescue workers. He witnessed Tuesday's destruction of the World Trade Center, and says the city is looking for a way to rally behind those in the rescue and recovery operation. "I saw the whole thing yesterday, and it was really devastating," he said. "So, this is kind of a small thing I can give back. And it feels good, as you see them go by, and acknowledge that we are with them. Just to let them know, as New Yorkers, as Americans, we are 100 percent behind them, and I'm willing to do anything that needs to be done."

But as he gazes toward the smoldering ruins that were the twin towers of the World Trade Center, Mr. Davis also acknowledges that New York has been forever marred by the events of Tuesday. "I'm a New York City tour guide, and that is a part of my sight-seeing tour, so even though I know in my heart it is New York, it doesn't look like New York without the towers," he said.

Haley Moss lives close by to where the World Trade Center once stood. She says she will never forget what she saw Tuesday morning, as she gazed out on an otherwise spectacular September morning. "I'm in shock, definitely," said Haley Moss. "My neighborhood is never going to be the same, and I would lie in bed, and look out at the towers. And that is how I woke up yesterday morning, to planes crashing into them. Things will never be the same."

But many New Yorkers are already eager to try and return their lives to a normal routine. Elizabeth Pepperman watched the procession of rescue vehicles with her husband Rick and one-year old daughter Katherine. "We are overwhelmed by how many emergency people there are working here in the city," she said. "It is tragic, but it is wonderful to see everybody turn out to support the rescue effort, and I look forward to the city getting back to normal."

Millie Albert and her husband Larry have lived in New York all their lives. They waited in line to donate blood, and then came out to lend their support to the rescue effort. "I think we are a resilient city, and I think, we will recover," said Millie Albert. "And I just hope that our intelligence is a little bit better, so that it doesn't happen again."

Larry Albert says he is pleased at how the city has come together in the wake of Tuesday's attack. But he also says he is ready for revenge. "I think what we've got to do is eliminate the cancer in this society," he said. "Get rid of these terrorists, and if the Taleban is harboring them, take care of the Taleban. But get rid of these things, because the society can't exist with this terrorism."

Perhaps no one embodies the defiant New Yorker better than Army veteran Franco Cortuccio. As he watched smoke and dust rise from the rubble several blocks away, Mr. Cortuccio said he had a message for whoever was behind the terrorist attacks. "I'm sure the terrorists' intention was to bring us down, and put as much chaos and fear as possible into the average New Yorker," he said. "But it hasn't happened. It has not happened. If you walk around the city, you will see. There are a lot of angry New Yorkers, but their main concern is for the people that are trapped down here in this cowardly attack."

Many New Yorkers say the city is bloody, but unbowed, in the wake of Tuesday's devastation. But that resolve will be sorely tested in the days ahead, as rescue teams recover the bodies of victims from the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.