Tuesday, October 16, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Tuesday, October 16th, 2001

Yankees-Anthrax I 7:00 AM PDT

The lead story on news radio? The front page headline on all three of the city's dailies? The Yankees' victory in round one of the baseball playoffs last night.

The triumph by a sports team that was down two games to none in a best-of-five series was, of course, analogized... as sports so often is here... to the city's collective comeback. Team owner George Steinbrenner even told me last night that this was the greatest event in Yankee history because "the city needed it."

New York, as usual, needs to veer between the extremes: Anthrax at ABC gets second-billing to the Yankees. At the same time, the head of the city's letter carriers union is this morning threatening a job action of some kind unless the Post Office reassures him his members are not at risk.

Yankees-Anthrax II 7:00 AM PDT

"New York is made up of battlers," the man in the turtleneck told me. "I get up in the morning, I have to battle with Joe Blow for a cab. New York needs this."

The speaker? The owner of the New York Yankees baseball team, George Steinbrenner. Scoff if you wish at his inflation of the importance of his club's come-from-behind victory in the first round of the playoffs last night - it, and not anthrax, is the headline of each newspaper.

It is not all stiff-upper-lip stuff. At Yankee Stadium, pedestrian plazas were blocked off, for the first time ever, by dozens of concrete barricades. And at a dry cleaner's across the street from Red Cross headquarters, employees are suddenly all wearing latex gloves. "You never know," says the manager.

On the other hand, since September 11th, this city has had... more mayoral primary elections than anthrax infections.

Friday, October 12, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Friday, October 12th, 2001


With this, and this afternoon's reports, we end this series, at least temporarily. We do this because the geography of the larger story is changing.

We do not do this because the story of New York is at an end. That this city has healed in some ways cannot be questioned. That it may be decades, decades before the scars are no longer visible, also cannot be questioned.

This is a city where a fireman who retired a year ago said last night that of the 340 colleagues lost at the World Trade Center, he knew by sight, 185 of them.

And this is a city where this remarkable anecdote may summarize how much repair needs to be done.

The man was, like a huge percentage of her patients, from Wall Street. He confirmed what his therapist was guessing: that maybe half the firms there have yet to provide counselling. Then he asked a question that stunned her.

She swallowed her shock and walked him through the seemingly obvious: having the World Trade Center destroyed, five blocks from your own office, and having to run for your life, and losing friends and colleagues, and then having to march back to work past checkpoints and smoking rubble six days later was traumatic.

What was this patient's question? "Doctor? I feel this kind of depression. Where could this be coming from?"


With this report we end this series, at least for now. For your sake and mine I hope we don't need to resume it.

It is probably the right time - as Winston Churchill put it, certainly not the beginning of the end, but perhaps the end of the beginning.

That someone mailed anthrax to NBC's Tom Brokaw and his assistant became ill after she opened the envelope twelve days ago has sent another shudder through the city. That no other sicknesses were reported... that Rockefeller Center is as busy as usual... both need to be remembered.

So does this. In 45 minutes on September 11th, this city's bravest and finest, evacuated more souls safely than the British did on the first day of the escape from Dunkirk in 1940. This was history's worst terrorist attack event, yet at least three out of every four of its possible victims - got out, without a scratch.

And to you, take this from a hard-boiled native of these streets. Your thoughts, your support, have been felt here, and have helped us through, and will help us through. If I may be presumptuous enough to say this: Thank You.

Thursday, October 11, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Thursday, October 11th, 2001

It is now a month. But... a month... since what?

More than five thousand, missing or dead. And for those outside their immediate circles, still - a month later - the shock can hit.

At Yankee Stadium last night I saw a sportscasting colleague for the first time since August. We had worked together in college. He had known my classmate, the Cornell athlete, Eamon McEneaney, who was killed in One World Trade Center. He had interviewed Eamon, he had had a beer with him. Until I told him, he didn't know Eamon was dead. He found out last night.

How many others didn't know, or still don't know that they lost long-ago classmates, or a neighbor's cousin, or a casual friend? How long will that slow-moving shock wave reverberate? In this sense, while the calendar may read October eleventh, for many of us, in every city in this country, it is still early in the morning of September eleventh. There are losses we don't yet know, griefs we have not yet encountered.

And for those directly affected, like the 3000 or more families who won't file for death certificates because to do so would be to deny even the smallest of hopes, it may very well always be early in the morning of September eleventh.

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Wednesday, October 10th, 2001


The true impact of the events of September 11th continue to reverberate, like some kind of slow-motion shock wave.

Two weeks ago this morning the city cut through red tape in hopes of affording closure, and more pragmatic concerns like hastening insurance claims and other benefits. It offered the families of the nearly 5,000 missing the opportunity to file for death certificates without the usual necessity of a body having been found. So far, fewer than 2,000 applications have been made. The private anguish being repeated in thousands of families can only be imagined, and grieved for.

Yet there is another, smaller, group of families for whom the anguish may be more unspeakable still. This morning, the city believes there still could be dozens, perhaps hundreds of victims who have not been reported as missing because they were, or their relatives are, in this country illegally. The living, fear that filing paperwork with the government could lead to their deportation.

The problem was, anecdotally, thought to be so severe that last Thursday, the commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service came here to state that the INS would not even consider acting against undocumented aliens. The Mayor followed up by saying that even if the INS asked for information, the city would not provide it.

Yet there has been no upswing in new "missing" reports.


This is Yankee Stadium, and New York's first war-time post-season baseball game since 1943. And it is being conducted in an atmosphere of controlled but palpable anxiety.

Some - but not all - fans were subjected to metal detecting wands as they entered. Security for the media, already heightened in the last month, was ratcheted up again. Want to bring a camera or a computer into the ballpark? You had better be prepared to prove that it is a camera or a computer.

And while much of the pre-game conversation was about visits to 'Ground Zero' by Oakland players like Jason Giambi, or about what security might have to do in the event of that New York tradition, the drunken fan running on the field, it is not all safety-consciousness.

A Bay Area television reporter left his bag, unattended, next to the Oakland dugout for a few minutes. A group of media types, unable to identify it, was about to wave over security when the tv guy reclaimed it and apologized for the inadvertent scare.

Tuesday, October 9, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Tuesday, October 9th, 2001


The four-week mark this morning has brought the city a remarkable teeter-totter of heightened security, and relaxed restrictions.

Rail commuters disembarking today at Penn Station and Grand Central were sobered by the presence of National Guardsmen, ordered to the vast terminals by Governor George Pataki.

On the other hand, 3000 students returned to the reopened Stuyvesant High School - blocks from The Trade Center - this morning.

The New York Times quotes an engineering report that says an empty commuter train is parked in the station below the wreckage. Four of its cars are almost untouched, the other three, crushed beneath the weight of tons of debris.

Yet the report also says that the so-called "Bathtub" - the 70-foot retaining wall that keeps the Hudson River from reclaiming land-fill in the Trade Center area - has not been breached nor significantly damaged.

And if you have ever lived here or even stayed here for any length time, the most symbolic news: The Mayor announces that shortly he will end the month long suspension of what is officially the means by which the city can clean its roads... but which car-owners have often thought was a planned attempt to drive them nuts. Alternate Side of The Street Parking Regulations will soon be back in effect.


It will strike home to you if you've ever heard the letters "A-Q-M-D." Tell a Southern Californian that the air might be worse today, and he may start finding that those breaths require a little more effort. It is an accepted medical fact that while the effect may be originally psychological, it can become physical.

So imagine the impact of the news here: City and federal health officials insist, on a daily basis, that those returning to live, work, and go to school in the immediate area of the World Trade Center, are at no risk. But today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earmarked five million dollars to increase monitoring the air in the vicinity.

And when students returned to the newly-reopened Stuyvesant High School this morning, some parents expressed alarm that school officials had asked for written notification from students who had asthma or other respiratory problems.

OSHA reported again today that the air is clearly dusty and unpleasant but not threatening. On the other hand, an independent lab hired by a major downtown employer reported very high levels of the smallest, and thus most dangerous, fibers of pulverized asbestos.

Thus the message is straight forward: the air is safe around The World Trade Center. Unless it isn't.

Monday, October 8, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Monday, October 8th, 2001


This will be a poor day by which to judge if New Yorkers are more edgy or more adjusted, more frustrated with ever-present security, or more like the Londoners of 1940 to whom their mayor has so frequently compared them.

It's a semi-holiday. Columbus Day is taken far more seriously here than it is in Southern California - parades, bank closures, limited stock market activity. Moreover, pre-planned relaxation of carpooling requirements, and the reopening to traffic of the so-called 'Frozen Zone' may offset any increase in checkpoints, at least in terms of the overall frustration factor.

But clearly yesterday was a good litmus test. Televisions in bars and other public places were not swarmed by viewers straining to see the images from Afghanistan; nor did the streets empty after the President's address.

In fact, it was easily the most normal-looking weekend day in the city since the attack on The World Trade Center. Sidewalks, stores, even hotels - packed. A football game across the river in New Jersey drew nearly 80-thousand, and, last night, only a few dozen out of 18-thousand seats were empty at Madison Square Garden for the season's first hockey game there.


It was the kind of throwaway interview and the kind of garish question that makes local tv news what it is - an expert, on a phone, questioned by a man who really doesn't grasp the topic.

And it produced a remarkable answer.

Christopher Dickey, Middle Eastern editor of Newsweek Magazine, was asked bluntly here if the retaliatory terrorism that quietly obsesses New Yorkers right now was more likely to be chemical or biological. Neither, was the start of the Newsweek man's reply.

Though it would not win the solemn competition by very much, this is the most worried city in America. People here now wonder about going into skyscrapers or sporting events in the age of terrorism, in almost the same way Southern Californians wonder about going into skyscrapers or sporting events in the land of earthquakes: Just how are we going to get out of here if something goes wrong.

That context is why this otherwise obscure interview was so compelling. While New York and America worry about anthrax, or sarin gas, or more improvised bombs, Mr. Dickey went on to say that if he had to predict the nature of the presumed next terrorist attack, he would forecast... assassination - the attempt on the life or lives of leaders or high-profile figures in this country.

Sunday, October 7, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Sunday, October 7th, 2001

Nearly four weeks later and it is not an uncommon sight. Blue police sawhorses, and actual concrete barricades, keeping a Manhattan street closed to vehicles and pedestrians. A sign handwritten on posterboard advising the patients of a local doctor that if they're not on "the list," they cannot enter.

But we are nowhere near the World Trade Center. We are in fact three miles away, at 66th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. 66th is blocked off. 65th is blocked off. Why? Because at the other end of this block, on West End Avenue, is a relay station for the city's power grid. A week after the attacks, the barricades went up. Officers then spoke of a specific threat against the station. They're saying nothing now.

On the East Side, at the power company's main plant, security is not nearly so tight. Three lanes of First Avenue adjoining it are coned off, but the sidewalk is open. Of course that main plant is just south of the United Nations, and the U.N. Plaza is completely closed to traffic - blocked, improbably enough, by the bright orange trucks which during the winter spread salt on snowy city streets. Their dumpsters are filled now, with sand.

How long will these stark reminders of the trauma here be in place. "Till further notice," says a cop on 66th.

Saturday, October 6, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Saturday, October 6th, 2001

Three weeks ago today we reported to you from the first sign of crassness from the recovering city. Executives of Metro-North, the commuter rail provider, had ordered that posters depicting the missing, be removed from Grand Central Station for "aesthetic reasons."

Today, just off the main room of that station, passengers stop in front of a twelve-paneled screen placed there by the railroad's employees. There are perhaps 300 missing posters there, four of them depicting John Thomas Andreacchio. On each of them, next to the smile peeking out from under Mr. Andreacchio's mustache, has been handwritten the word "found." He was added to the list of the dead on Thursday.

Another update. The New York Police and Fire Widows And Children's Benefit Fund, the charity to which the fees from these reports are going, has, in the last 26 days, raised about $20 million. Its founder, the former baseball star Rusty Staub, is grateful and overwhelmed. The stark reality however, is that even with this extraordinary generosity, if the fund were to divide the new donations just among those families newly afflicted, each would receive about $49,000. Their website is www.nypfc.org.

Friday, October 5, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Friday, October 5th, 2001


Numbers are such sterile things. In a time like this they almost obscure the human toll.

Not the two new sets of them this morning.

From the Office of the Comptroller of the City of New York, the forecast of the total financial loss: $105 billion. Contained in that incomprehensible number, something as ridiculous as: $82 million lost because fewer traffic tickets will be issued. And then something as confusing as $11 billion lost in "human capital." What could "human capital" be? It's the amount those killed here might have earned during the rest of their lifetimes.

From the Mayor's Command Center: 5,300 human remains as yet unidentified... an estimate, two to three weeks before an extensive DNA matching program begins to lower that horrifying statistic.

Finally, look at the latest daily list of revisions to each category of victim: confirmed dead, reported dead, reported missing. Fifty-two names, and that figure is heartbreaking enough, for one day. But go on-line and find that list, and read the names out aloud, just the names, and it will take you about two minutes if you can make it through.


Months ago, the United States Figuring Skating Association had scheduled for tonight, here at the Madison Square Garden arena, a solemn anniversary. Forty years ago, nearly the entire American skating community - stars, juniors, coaches - was killed in a plane crash in Belgium.

Now, the event is for the benefit of not just the Association's Memorial Fund, but also for several charities attending to victims of September 11th. And that's because one 16-year old girl, from Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, decided to put aside thoughts of retirement, and skate tonight.

Her name is Joanna Glick. She quit the sport last spring and focused on being a high school student, and running track. And then her 31-year old brother got on board United Flight 93 on the morning of September 11th. His name was Jeremy and you have doubtless heard about him. He was the college judo champion who is believed to be among the passengers who helped thwart the hijackers plans for that Newark to San Francisco flight that ultimately crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Jeremy Glick.

Joanna skates here tonight to the Sarah McLachlan song "I Will Remember You." Then next week, or next month, with a corporate sponsor, she will begin touring high schools nationwide to talk about freedom... and heroes.

Thursday, October 4, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Thursday, October 4th, 2001


This afternoon, the National Museum of American History, and the Museum of the City of New York, will conduct a joint public meeting to discuss how they might appropriately and tastefully preserve the artifacts of these most trying times in the city's four centuries of existence.

The most sensitive of the many issues will be the 'Missing' posters we have so often spoken of here. Is it appropriate for anyone but families and friends to remove them, even with the best of intentions? If a museum wants to exhibit them, is it no longer a question of there being hope, but rather a premature act, an incorrect suggestion that the mass grieving process is even close to being over.

The issues are underscored, in a sense, by two of the city's newspapers.

The New York Post is averaging two pages a day full of photos of those who are still officially regarded as missing. And more heart-rendingly, the New York Times is publishing between 15 and 20 biographies of those lost - there were 18 more today, and as impactful as each of their stories is... it is the math of the thing that is so overwhelming. At an average of 18 per day, the Times has so far printed over 300 biographies. At this rate they would print the last of them... on July 27th of next year.


There is a decided attempt to convey the idea that this place is back to normal. You know what I mean here: it's just like Southern California in the week after a significant earthquake.

A new ad campaign from a candidate who wishes to succeed him says quote "Mayor Giuliani's handled the crisis, now..." which assumes the crisis is in the past tense.

On the cover of the New York Post, meanwhile, not Osama bin Laden nor President Bush, but Martin Sheen, next to a headline ripping the television show "West Wing." That the Post is owned by a rival television network is never mentioned; and the paper actually contradicts its front page by, inside, giving the program two positive reviews. One more part of New York back to normal.

As is this: Somebody's trying to make a profit off the nightmare. The city will give the families of all victims a wooden urn filled with soil from the World Trade Center site, because, says the Mayor, reports have been received of people trying to sell "Ground Zero soil" to the bereaved.

The most tangible evidence, though, that the city is not anywhere near back to normal is the simple fact that buildings on block after block south of the site have not yet been cleaned of the Trade Center ash. Unfortunately, that material consists of the same horrible ingredients that can be found at Ground Zero itself.

Wednesday, October 3, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Wednesday, October 3rd, 2001


Among those few, small lighted matches in the darkness of the last three weeks, there is the sublimation of publicity. Yesterday, forty entertainers, athletes, musicians, visited with families of the victims, far away from the debris, at Governor George Pataki's command center near Grand Central railroad station. No prior announcement; no photo opportunity.

All of them and we know that actors Robert DiNiro and Alan Alda were there, and the New York Mets' manager Bobby Valentine and catcher Mike Piazza, and the ex-tennis star John McEnroe did whatever they could do and said whatever they could say to the widows and the widowers and the children.

Valentine related his experience to about a dozen reporters, but without his usual glibness, in a nearly empty Shea Stadium. He noted the difference between his job and his responsibility. He said nothing could've prepared him for his sense of needing to do something, and of his gratitude that the something isn't totally irrelevant.

It cannot be totally irrelevant when the very dugout in which Valentine spoke had just been inspected by a bomb-sniffing dog... nor on a day when warmth returned and the smell around The Trade Center itself turned from the faint odor of an electrical fire to the discomforting stench of rotting cheese.


After three weeks and one day, it is still here. The silent witness to all that the city has seen virtually untouched, virtually unacknowledged, while vast armies of rescue workers and politicians and distraught families have rushed past it.

It is still here, on Washington Street, between Ward and Rector. When all this began it sat motionless amid the chaos. A week later it could be seen only by the few who were admitted behind the police barricades. One week after that, ordinary New Yorkers could walk past it. Now trucks can rumble beside it, and perhaps within another week there will be a cab or a shuttle bus.

It is still here.

It is a Pontiac SSE sedan, maroon, at least it used to be maroon. Three rainstorms have not washed away half the horrible ash that had repainted it when we brought you here a week ago. Its drivers' side window has been rolled down, the door is slightly ajar, the trunk is slightly dented.

The license plate is from Connecticut: "A-Schaf." Whoever that is, it is safe to say they are not coming back for it, or, if we're lucky, they are merely delayed in doing so.

It is still here. This afternoon. Three weeks and one day later.

Tuesday, October 2, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Tuesday, October 2nd, 2001


Welcome to the three-week mark, and to the city of post-traumatic stress disorders.

There are no statistics to support this yet, but the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. Besides the general grief, two principal psychological problems here are now being reported by analysts and other health care professionals in remarkable quantities. Many relatives and friends of survivors, the therapists say, are frozen in the moment of their last disagreement with those missing or dead even if it wasn't their last contact. If you had a fight with them as one psychologist explained it to me - a part of you can't shake the idea that you had some kind of anger toward them... and that emotion was shared by the terrorists who had some kind of anger toward them, too.

This leads into the second problem: what they call, informally, the I-Caused-It-Syndrome. Earlier this year, an executive at one of the decimated World Trade Center companies, planned to leave the firm. A colleague said he'd quit with him. No, said the first man, stay a few months longer and take them for every dime you can make.

The man who stayed, was killed.

The man who left, is now part of an extraordinarily large group of devastated survivors. If there are 6,000 victims, there are 60,000 who, rationally or otherwise, think they helped to kill them.


How, in the near future and in the long term, will the events of these three weeks affect public gatherings here?

For the second consecutive night, the city's baseball teams are both playing home games, the Yankees in the Bronx, the Mets here in Queens. Last night the Yankees had their smallest crowd in seven seasons 8,000. The Mets did worse 6,300, their smallest crowd in just over a decade. To be fair, neither game was originally scheduled for last night. Neither game was of intrinsic baseball interest the Mets, in fact, had just dropped out of the pennant race. And it was cold about 50 degrees.

On the other hand, it was colder Sunday afternoon and 55,000 went to the Bronx for the last game of visiting Baltimore star Cal Ripken. And six of the other eight games played here since the attacks drew at least 41,000.

History suggests that at times of national emergency, sports attendance and broadcast audiences hold at a minimum of 85 percent. But peripheral elements like sports media plummet, and in general, the fan raises the bar if the timing, the weather, and the importance of the game aren't all good, he may stay home.

It's warm tonight 71 at game time this'll give us a better feel for things. As they began play, there were fewer than 5,000 in the seats.

Monday, October 1, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Monday, October 1st, 2001


At the police barricades at 161st Street and Ruppert Place in the Bronx, the lieutenant did not like what he saw. "What's this?," he asked, holding the all-access credential, a laminated piece of gold in baseball circles, but meaningless to the cops. "No picture on this? That's Bull. They could shoot him, steal this, and get in."

The younger officers seemed to be stifling laughs. The guy wearing the credential - me - agreed that photo ID's were the future in sports but if the lieutenant was going to describe me getting shot by some unknown "they," would he please be so kind as to not refer to me in the third person, as if I were already dead.

Inside Yankee Stadium itself, an Officer MacCrimmon chuckled at the story. "Things are still crazy here. I'm getting asked for my autograph by kids." A colleague had a better anecdote. "Cal Ripken's farewell today and some of his teammates came over to shake our hands." MacCrimmon had to laugh. "Doesn't do me any good, I'm a Met fan."

Two rivers west, at Giants Stadium, they were not laughing. The first football game since the catastrophe and there were empty seats. No-shows? Possibly. But as Giants' owner Wellington Mara noted with sadness, 28 customers had their season tickets sent to addresses... at the World Trade Center.

And the shock waves from September 11th continue to move slowly but devastatingly through every part of this community.


Memorials and funerals for six more firefighters were held this morning and this afternoon. On the eastern side of Central Park, under a white tent and a persistent drizzle, the 700 and lost employees of the Cantor-Fitzgerald bond firm were remembered in a gathering of family and friends. Those lost from the staff of the restaurant atop The World Trade Center, Windows On The World, were eulogized in late afternoon. This is now the city of mourning.

Three weeks after, and it is still papered with photographs of the missing. The first shrine at Union Square is still filled with them. So too part of the Times Square subway station. And streetlights, and hospitals, and construction sites, and boarded up storefronts just blocks from The Trade Center.

As a move to collect and preserve them in a city museum suggests, these 'Missing' posters continue to resonate in an almost unspeakable way. It is the rare and fortunate New Yorker who is not halted in his tracks by one of them.

You do not have to know any of the men and women depicted to feel the pain. But when you do, there is shock upon shock. On Canal Street, today, a black and white photograph of one of those Cantor-Fitzgerald employees, a smiling Mike Tanner. I went to college with him.