New York - The Good Planes are Back


In the early 1970s, I lived on West 48th Street, just west of Eighth Avenue. Across the avenue was a firehouse, near the bus stop I sometimes used (and where, if I was going to an early morning call, the local prostitutes would usually come over for a chat while I waited).

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for firefighters, so, soon after I moved into the neighborhood, I baked a cake for that firehouse and decorated it with fire-department symbols in red. They were pretty suspicious of the first cake, but soon it became a ritual. Every Friday night, I would bake a cake for Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9.

Today I learned that ALL of the members of that firehouse who were on duty on September 11 are missing. Every day we learn something new that we’d rather not have found out. The estimated number of missing increased late yesterday by about a thousand, based on reports coming in from foreign countries. Only about 250 dead have been found thus far.

I am very tired (but at least I have a later call tomorrow). Tonight is the third memorial/benefit I’m involved in. Tomorrow will be the fourth, Sunday the fifth. I got a call today for yet another. I am approaching memorial/benefit fatigue. This may not be such a bad thing.

I’m pretty good at avoiding jet lag. If I’m traveling to Europe, I try to exhaust myself the day before I leave, getting up ridiculously early and exposing myself to a high intensity light. The exhaustion seems to help me adjust to the new time zone rapidly. I wonder if I’m subconsciously grinding myself down on these shows so that when I’m done with them I’ll be able to adjust to the new environment.

Last night, I listened to the big speech. I’m glad Mr. Bush emphasized over and over that we shouldn’t be taking things out on Muslims.

Other parts of his speech I didn’t understand. He said that, with the exception of December 1941, this is the first time we’ve been attacked on U.S. territory. I won’t nitpick about the War of 1812 or the fact that our embassies are considered U.S. territory, but what about February 26, 1993?

People say we will never forget September 11, 2001, but, in less than nine years, it appears that almost everyone has already forgotten February 26, 1993, the last time the World Trade Center was attacked by foreign terrorists. People were killed then, too. Survivors were covered with dust and choked on smoke then, too. The television broadcasters located at the World Trade Center went off the air then, too, and, then as now, only WCBS-TV had a backup transmitter at the Empire State Building.

Security increased tremendously at the World Trade Center after the 1993 attack. My wife and I went to Cellar in the Sky, a branch of the Windows on the World restaurant atop the World Trade Center, for our first anniversary in 1979. We visited another branch specializing in appetizers on several occasions. If we were taking people around New York and didn’t want to wait in line for the observatory, we’d just pop up to the restaurant.

After 1993, that became impossible. Anyone entering the building had to have a good reason for being there. The added security didn’t do much good last week. It may have hurt. A security guard in one of the so-called sky lobbies reportedly told people fleeing the south tower to return to their offices (before the south tower was hit).

That’s why there’s another part of the speech that I didn’t understand. How we can eliminate terrorism? Would our new battle against states that harbor terrorists have done anything to have stopped Timothy McVeigh? The Unabomber? Son of Sam? George Metesky (“The Mad Bomber”)? New York has had a long history of terrorism.

Today there was noticeable air traffic on the approach to LaGuardia Airport that goes right up Manhattan’s Amsterdam Avenue. I was a little surprised. I thought they might have eliminated that approach. I’m also delighted.

I made a coin-phone call today and had to pay for it. Things are getting even more back to normal.

It could lead to dancing.

TTFN, Mark