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New Yorkers Coping With Attack Aftermath - 2001-09-16


Several days after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, New Yorkers are still trying to deal with the devastation and loss of life. VOA's National correspondent Jim Malone has been out walking the streets of lower Manhattan to get a sense of how city residents are coping in the aftermath of the attack on America.

Day and night, residents on New York's lower west side flock to the side of the road where emergency vehicles pass, hoping to boost the spirits of firefighters like Kerry Miller who have grown weary of picking through the rubble that was the World Trade Center.

"I don't know. It is hard to say anything, you know," she says. " There's just so much going on and so much damage and all that, you know. It's hard."

You can also see the weariness in the face of carpenter Steve Leblanc who volunteered for the rescue and recovery effort two days ago. His way of coping with the tragedy is to work on the rubble pile as often as he can.

"The hardest part is to come downtown, I live on the upper west side, to come down and not see them [the towers] there. That really gets me every time," he says. "It is just so obvious that there is just something missing there that should be there. And then, I don't know, when you get down there [in the rubble] really close, it feels like you just want to get to work and that is all you think about. And it is everybody helping, cops, firemen, construction workers, laborers, everybody just lending a hand. And it felt really good to do the actual work. It really was a day of pride. It was."

Dozens of local residents line up on the side of the street to applaud the rescue workers as they make their way away from the devastation scene just a few blocks away.

Mary Jacobs is on the verge of tears as she stares at a small mountain of twisted steel and rubble.

"Oh God, it is so overwhelming," she says. "I'm just standing here crying, you know. The wreckage looks like pretzel sticks, you know, and it just keeps burning and burning. It is so sad. It is just so sad. But all of this outpouring from the people is wonderful, wonderful."

Further uptown, away from the smoldering ruins of the trade center, New Yorkers are trying to get their lives back to normal.

"World Trade Center t-shirts here, look," a vendor advertises. "All sizes here, bags, pocketbooks, backpacks, $10. Take a look."

Kevin is a vendor at the corner of 34th Street and Broadway who is having a hard time drumming up business.

"Ah, slow. People are still, like, walking around in a daze," he says. " You know, I guess they are trying to shop for what they want, you know, to make themselves feel a little better. I still feel a little off-balance myself."

In fact, many city residents acknowledge that they feel off-balance in the wake of Tuesday's attack. But that sense of uneasiness is also bringing people together and, in some cases, it is sparking spontaneous outbursts of patriotism among New Yorkers who are better known for their cynicism.

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