Accessibility links

Breaking News

New York in Winter - 2002-01-09

Four months after the September 11th terrorist attacks, a sense of normalcy is returning to New York City - yet the people who live and work there say that it is a new norm - that things will never be quite the same again. Carolyn Weaver visited to talk with New Yorkers about the changes wrought by September 11th - and found the city in a winter season.

Bill Graizell has sold apartments in Battery Park City, overlooking the World Trade Center, for nearly twenty years. He says his business is getting back to normal, though prices have fallen ten or fifteen percent. But he thinks the impact on New York's spirit will last much longer:

"What do I compare this to? There's nothing to compare it to. It shook the city to its soul. I don't think we as a community understood what people in Oklahoma City went through, I don't think we understood what people in Ireland and England went through, I don't think we understood what people in the Middle East go through when something like this happens. And it changed our perspective."

"People are a lot more giving. There are no hassles, nobody's arguing, if you get bumped into on the train, everybody's 'sorry -- oh don't worry about it.' I think everyone came closer and tighter together, that we went through something this horrible -- and I think New York really showed a good side of itself."

Lawyer John Smyth, a retired fireman, was on his way to his office near the World Trade Center when the first plane hit. He ran to his old firehouse and spent the day working at Ground Zero.

"When I was in the Millennium Hotel, I looked the window of one of the upper floors and really got a good look at just the overwhelming size of the destruction. It's a sight I don't think I'm ever going to forget…It was weird, every time we took a moment to rest or a breath, the anger of the event seeped in and guys were like, we were attacked, this is a war zone."

At the same time, Kathy Hansen, who lives right next door to the World Trade Center, was praying that both her sons had made it safely to school.

"There were plane parts that came into the building."

Their apartment building was severely damaged and they had to leave for three months. Now they're moving into an apartment on the other side of the building.

"My name is Reilly Scull, I'm eleven years old, and I live next to what was the Trade Center."

Kathy's younger son Reilly's bedroom overlooked what is now Ground Zero.

Does it make you angry, sad?

"It makes me wonder why."

"Reilly was very clear that he wanted to come back to his neighborhood. There was a faction of people in the neighborhood who said, 'I'm out of there,' and those who said, 'Don't let the terrorists win, don't let them take our neighborhood, and we're going to rebuild it and it's going to be better than ever,' and Reilly's definitely in that camp. And not only did he want to stay in the same neighborhood, he wanted to be in the same building with the same doorman, so even though there's change, he wants to be back to something that's familiar. Unfortunately, because this apartment has to be vacated for four to six months, we're not coming back to our home -- but we'll make another one."

"It's not like walking past a cemetery and crossing your fingers to keep away the bad spirits. It's like, you were there and you saw this happen, and you saw people jumping out of windows, and people going back and trying to save them, and they're still there and they're not coming back and it's a scary thought."

Students at Stuyvesant High School spend their days just a few blocks from the scene.

"I can't think about it any more or basically my head's going to explode. So I'm going on normally. I'm a little tired of just having people ask me, treat me as if -- if it should be ruling my life right now, because it isn't and it shouldn't be, because once it starts ruling your life, what the hell are you supposed to be doing? I mean, I'm fifteen, I'm supposed to be running around the city wreaking havoc, I'm not going to sit at home and obsess about the people who died three blocks from me. I already did that. And it really upsets me -- and I have a little part of my mind that's always going AHWHHHH! But that's another part, I'm not basing my life around it."

But for John Smyth, who spent September 11th in the rescue effort, almost every day brings a reminder.

"I see pictures in the paper now, of memorial services or funerals, and you see the face, and I'm like 'Oh, my god, I worked with him, I know him.' And there were a lot of guys in my battalion that didn't make it, and it's such a big number, that it's really too big to handle all at once. I was on my way here tonight and looked in the paper and saw another guy I knew who died. That's the way it is. You spend a lot of time going to funerals and memorial services and fundraisers."

Some lines about New York by the poet Walt Whitman are inscribed along the waterfront, just a block from Ground Zero "…tall facades of marble and iron - proud and passionate city, mettlesome, mad, extravagant city…"

But in New York this winter, the mood is subdued - and Ground Zero in particular is a place for mourning and reflection.

Japanese-American Buddhist monks performed a blessing in December, at a platform overlooking the site, where international victims are memorialized. An attitude of kindness, even more than fear or anger, seems to be one lesson New Yorkers have taken from September 11th.

"Everybody's changed in numerous ways, but not necessarily all for bad. I think some good has come out of it, you know, people may be remembering to help each other, think of each other, and not just brush by each other in the streets. So I think that's the best part, that maybe we're taking something good out of something really horrible.

In New York, this is Carolyn Weaver, VOA-TV.