On Sept. 11, 2001, a shock wave ripped through the heart of New York, and when it subsided none of us would ever be the same. Whatever peace and sanctity return to the city will forever be merely the illusion of sanctuary, each of us having witnessed a tearing in our long-woven illusion of innocence. Each New Yorker is now bearing a scar for life, never again to dream of the island of Manhattan as a place equal to the worst the world could do to it; it is no longer really an island at all.
To go from a city of wittily arrogant modernity to a gritty, choking battleground in one morning, to lose thousands of our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters in an obscene instant of cruelty–nothing about Tuesday morning fits this city’s concept of itself. As citizens evacuated lower Manhattan, walking dazedly north, there were no good thoughts or comforting words, but only a yawning and terrible chasm, with the awakening thought of the terrible cost of the justice to come.
New Yorkers can, of course, take solace in their traditional strengths of intelligence and courage that carried them through the day. But even a casual glimpse down Fifth Avenue, to the giant plume of smoke that rose to the sky like a warning of monstrous disproportion, showed that New York’s days of innocence were well over.
What happens next in the United States of America depends on the intelligence and focus of its leadership as it seeks redress, justice, and the healing that can only come from freeing this country from future fear. But here in this city of souls, the dust and debris that fell can only temporarily shroud the loss of the shining symbol of civic pride, technological magnificence and joy that was the World Trade Center. Nothing can console this city for the loss of our as-yet-uncounted, still-to-be-mourned fellow New Yorkers.
The Observer wishes to extend condolences to all those who lost loved ones in this inconceivable tragedy.