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New Yorkers Alternate Between Hope and Despair


The announcement Thursday that the number of people missing in the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center has risen to more than 6,300 has simply added another layer of shock and disbelief to the city's beleaguered residents. The mood of New Yorkers seems to shift on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis, from shock to hope to disappointment.

Life goes on in the United States' busiest and largest city, although at a slower, quieter pace.

World and national leaders and celebrities continue to visit New York, offering saddened residents, officials, and rescue workers moral support and financial assistance.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair stopped in New York on his way back from Washington. He spoke at a memorial service for the dead and missing. "There is shock and disbelief, and there is anger," said Prime Minister Blair. "But around the whole of the world, there is the most profound solidarity. There is the determination to build hope out of tragedy. There is the surging of the human spirit."

At least 250 British citizens are missing as a result of the terror attack.

A delegation of 40 U.S. Senators toured the wreckage of the World Trade Center with New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Governor George Pataki, pledging to help rebuild the city and keep it safe from terrorism. Last week, Congress approved a $40 billion recovery package for New York.

Governor Pataki says it was important for the senators to see the devastated site in person and understand the terror attack was aimed at the United States, not just New York. "When you go down there, and you see the devastation, and just the horror, you appreciate that this was not an effort by terrorists to bring down two towers," he said. "This was an effort to destroy our spirit, to divide our people, and, ultimately to take away our freedom."

Mayor Giuliani announced the city is investing more than half a billion dollars in securities to show long-term confidence in the U.S. economy.

Meanwhile, residents are being allowed to return to their homes in many sections of lower Manhattan, near the site of the attack. Electricity is working in the neighborhood. However, more than 50,000 businesses and residents are without telephones.

But some residents, like Steve Daugherty, are still traumatized. "I am not anxious to live there," he said. "But, I have been staying on a friend's couch for a week. My daughter has been staying with her mother. I got my dog out of there, and I want to get back to get some money."

One sign that life is getting back to normal can be found in the robust political debate now starting over the mayoral race. Political parties were supposed to chose candidates in a primary election the day of the attack. The election was postponed until September 25. But now some people are saying the primary election should be delayed further, because the campaign has been suspended since September 11, and voters are not in the mood to cast ballots.

Mayor Giuliani, a Republican at the end of his second term, is limited to two terms by law. But a move is afoot to modify the law, and allow him to continue in office. But even this political debate is a gentle one by New York standards. Feisty New Yorkers, it seems, are feeling gentler and kinder across the board.

Danny Ballarini was in One World Trade Center when the building was hit by the hijacked airplane. He is now working near the site of the attack, alongside rescue workers. "Everything is peace down here right now," he said. "Everybody is working together. There is no conflict or anything. Even if you do not know the guy, he will still help you. All these people over here, with the food and everything, it is really touching how it is."

Crime, which had dropped significantly in New York before the attack, is down more than 34 percent. People are more considerate of each other. The awful attack that shook New York to its core September 11 has created a new spirit of civility, at least for the time being.

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