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.