The Fifth Day


It was really good to be with friends last night. The Long Island Railroad operated absolutely normally and on time. The subways were something else. Service below 34th Street on the 7th Avenue lines has been suspended, making the Times Square Station the last useful transfer point. The platform there was the most crowded I have ever seen it, including on New Year’s Eves.

Despite what reports have been saying, only six subway lines are operating on their “normal” routes (“normal” is in quotes because several of the six were already diverted for a long period due to bridge construction work). The others are all truncated in some way. The biggest mess is on the 7th Avenue lines, one of which ran right under the World Trade Center, and the other of which came awfully close. Still, stations in the financial district are now open. The “frozen zone” isn’t frozen anymore.

From midtown northward, things seem almost completely normal now. There’s the usual traffic, all the stores and theaters are open (and so is Riverside Church), the subways seem pretty normal, etc. There was even a little street fair outside Columbia University. Here are some of the differences from normality: – a somewhat somber mood – ad hoc memorials everywhere – TV sets tuned to WCBS-TV (still the only easily receivable major-network station) sitting on the sidewalk – many posters — about donations, checking on the pets of the missing, etc. – non-acceptance of credit and debit cards (verification calls are still unreliable — so is my long-distance)

The city has literally been overwhelmed with donations of food and with volunteers. Please do NOT send any more food. What’s here is being distributed to homeless organizations, but there’s too much even for that, and the distribution diverts personnel from other activities. Only heavy equipment and money are desired now. Details are on the official New York City government web site:

http://nyc.gov/html/em/volunteer.html

There have been reports of looting in the rescue area (including a generator stolen). A friend who is trying to get a developer to open an empty building for the newly homeless is running into a brick wall. Yes, New York (unfortunately) seems to be getting back to normal.

One of my neighbors in my apartment house is among the missing. So is a good friend who worked at the transmitter of one of the TV stations. A friend’s fiancee is a teacher at a school near the World Trade Center who now has to deal with students whose parents are among the missing. A friend of a friend was the ticket agent who checked in two of the terrorists and wished them a nice flight. It will be some time before we realize the full impact of this on our lives.

But, at the moment, I’m happy to be busy working on THREE televised memorial events. The first is the musical ecumenical event at Riverside Church tomorrow. The time has been moved up to accommodate another memorial service at St. Patrick’s cathedral. So, our show will be live on many PBS and NPR stations from 4 pm to 5:30 pm New York Time. I know it’s being carried on WETA in Washington. Cablevision’s MetroTV channel will also carry it. CNN will come in and out periodically. If any of you who are not PBS stations want to take it by satellite, it’ll be GE-3 K-18 (if you want to broadcast it, no more than ten minutes without further permission please). Talent includes the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Mandy Patinkin, Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson, Dawn Upshaw, and Joshua Bell. There will also be Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, and Jewish clergy. You could look it up here (if you do, note that it’s Ted Sperling, not “Red”):

http://www.theriversidechurchny.org/index.asp?id=502#1

It’s called “America in Healing at The Riverside Church.”

The next one will be a Metropolitan Opera benefit next Saturday night, with image magnification to the Lincoln Center plaza. All-Mobile Video and Scharff-Weisberg are being very generous already, but we could use a large (22.5′ x 30′) screen and maybe some scaffolding with a portable projection booth and a generator (or a giant video wall). If anyone wants to help, the best thing is probably to contact Louisa Briccetti at the Met’s media department (212 870-7413 <LBriccetti@mail.metopera.org>).

Then comes the “official” memorial in Central Park next Sunday, being produced by David Stern (per the forwarded message yesterday <sterndb@earthlink.net>). I don’t know many details of that one yet (except that it’s supposed to start at 3 pm), but a camera operator working on the shows says it’s already being hyped as an event likely to draw a live audience of a million.

Alitalia says its flights to New York got through today, so I look forward to seeing my wife again tomorrow. YAY!

I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to do another report.

Years ago, President Kennedy tried to express his solidarity with an isolated Berlin by saying that he, too, was a Berlin resident (some German scholars report that, by the addition of an article, he actually said, “I am a jelly doughnut”). Now, people all around the world are saying they are New Yorkers. Welcome!

We are, in fact, very warm hearted, even though we are perceived as rude. For those of you who don’t understand this apparent contradiction, I will explain it: We are always in a hurry. Suppose a midwesterner asks a New Yorker for directions. ALL New Yorkers LOVE to give directions — even to places they have never heard of. That’s how warm hearted we are.

But we can’t stand the length of time it takes some people to ask. As Garrison Keillor once pointed out, the New Yorker is thinking, “I’ll gladly carry you there on my back if only you’ll finish the sentence!”

That’s us.

On behalf of all eight million, thanks!

TTFN, Mark