Tuesday, September 18, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Tuesday, September 18th, 2001

A Week Since What? 5:48 AM PDT

Anniversaries are more than just reminders of things we cannot or should not forget. They are also a means to measure the distance, the safety of time, from a cataclysm. But the one week mark achieved here at this hour is without that comfort. It is one week since a day that, in human terms, was four times worse than the worst night of the London blitz; twenty times worse than the previous greatest loss of life in this city.

But it is not one week since whatever happened, ended.

Just how far away are we New Yorkers from even the rough approximation of normality? Put aside, for a second, the unspeakable devastation at the Trade Center itself, or the prospect of five thousand funerals. Consider the venerable Brooklyn Bridge. It's the one week anniversary of the moment it was closed. It was untouched by the calamity... but if opened, there'd be no place in lower Manhattan to put the cars and people driving over it. The real anniversary, the celebration of the safety of time, is, this morning, not even visible on this city's smoky horizon.

The Smoke 6:32 AM PDT

From where he stood, just outside surrogate's court on Chambers Street, the young man in the court uniform could see only the perfect blue sky on the most eastern side of the Island. Before him, the clean-as-starch faƧade of City Hall reflected the brilliant end-of-summer sun. The verdant park around the seat of city government blocked everything else: no wreckage, no brown plumes belching into the sky.

He turned to his companion and asked, in all seriousness: "You smell smoke?"

It is, probably, a good thing that he was surprised. Six blocks downtown, on Wall Street, the smoke is still pungent, but lighter, which has in turn created three new prime viewing spots on the walk to The Stock Exchange, and, of course, created the crowds to fill them. And last night the wind changed again. Early this morning, as if anyone needed another reminder of the grim anniversary of an event that is unimaginably far from over, you could smell the smoke, in the Bronx.

J & R 7:05 PM EDT

Nothing happened on this stretch of Park Row. Though the World Trade Center complex was but a block and a half away, the damage here, behind the police barricades, was limited to that lingering fingerprint of terror the coating of the ash from the Trade Center fires and collapse. Yet the J & R stores are closed, and they will be as long as police and soldiers wave pedestrians away from Park Row, which could be months. There is no spoilage at J&R these are a series of entertainment stores that grew from one music shop. There are four of them. One is three stories tall and sells only classical CD's.

When will they open again? Who will lose his job because they will not open soon?

You can ask that question in front of a thousand shuttered shops this morning. The buildings are undamaged, but their mere proximity to what happened a week ago today has sealed them as surely as if they were the plague houses of medieval Europe. The consequences of the fatalities, and the destruction at the Trade Center are obvious. What has happened to the people and places around it, are far more subtle, but no less disastrous.

The Case For Sports 7:48 AM EDT

Last night when they took the field in Pittsburgh for the national anthem, the New York Mets wore not their regular team caps, but rather those of the New York fire department, the police department, and the emergency medical service. The Mets are pushing to be allowed to wear their tributes to New York's rescue companies during the game tonight in Pittsburgh, to commemorate this one-week anniversary... and then, Friday evening, if they host New York's first sporting event since the attack at The Trade Center.

The weekend games may be moved to Atlanta because the parking lots at Shea Stadium here are filled with food and other relief supplies. One of those gently arguing for permission from baseball to do this is John Franco, the Brooklyn native, the son of a city sanitation worker, and fittingly the winning pitcher last night in Pittsburgh.

The case for sports can be made simply by quoting an NYPD officer who stood vigilant but weary yesterday on the slope that rises up to the New York Stock Exchange. Amid the barricades, and the yellow tape; with the smoke still blowing down Wall Street and the awful wreckage only out of sight and never out of mind, he summed it up: "At least tonight I can go home and at 7 o'clock I can put my feet up and watch the Mets and pretend things haven't changed.".

The Three Intersections of Hell 8:32 AM EDT

Do not go to Rector Street. From there, you will see the central fire, and the smoke before the bright end-of-summer sky turns it an opaque tan instead of its original, sick, dark brown... before it erases your assumption that this is what they meant when they first described the fires of hell.

You will say this is the worst place to spend part of this one week anniversary. And your companion will say, no it isn't, and he will walk you another block west. And you will see part of the metal lattice work from one of the towers, sticking, where it landed - seven or eight floors worth - like so much twisted grillwork. With a six-story pile of rubble to its right, it will make you think of the ruins of the Roman Colosseum.

Your companion will beckon you yet another block further. And there you will see the piece of the same metal, having flown, downwards, perhaps 30 stories, or 60, or 90, and having knifed a serrated 100-foot high rip down the edge of a building on the other side of the street, before it finally stopped, and stayed where it stopped, and has stayed there a week.

You will say nothing, and your companion will say "And we're still three blocks away from Ground Zero."

The Giant Crane 9:05 AM EDT

One week since the disaster means that tomorrow is one week since the last rescue. That fact weighs heavily here, and there are indications that the focus at The Trade Center will shift to a long-odds gamble.

Two Cleveland excavation experts marched up The West Side Highway late this morning, to bring in a huge, portable, long-reach crane. With it, rescuers can try to clear rubble in the middle of the vast pile, not just at its perimeter. It is risky it concedes no one is alive in what were presumed to be the highest-chance areas. And as one of the excavation men put it, it's like trying to play pick-up sticks, from the middle, out.

And it may be all they have left.

Eamon McEneaney 9:20 AM EDT

When the World Trade Center was first attacked in 1993, Eamon McEneaney immediately apprehended the danger. He formed a human chain, and directed 65 of his fellow employees from their offices in the north tower, down a pitch-black, smoke-filled stairwell, to safety.

We do not know what Eamon McEneaney did a week ago this morning. We presumably will never know if he had the time to show the instincts and courage that he had in 1993. A week ago this morning he was working, as he was eight years ago, for the securities firm Cantor-Fitzgerald. It occupied half the office space in the top ten floors of One World Trade.

Cornell University has announced that McEneaney is "among the victims" and that his life will be celebrated, Friday. He was one of that school's greatest athletes.

I did not know him well. We were in one class together, in 1976, and he made the critical play in the first sporting event I ever covered as a professional. It was not a good one he fumbled a punt, and that led to the only points of the game. Two days later, not knowing he was standing behind me in that classroom I made a joke about it. Eamon McEneaney walked past me and smiled. "Don't worry. I won't drop the next one."