The Get Away

Jan Barker, a writer and divorced mother of two who lives on

the Upper East Side, has her bag ready to go.    

  “I’m a very level-headed person, but I have

children,” she said. “Every parent I know is equally concerned. I have water,

PowerBars-I figure we can live off those. I have a flashlight that’s

battery-operated that’s also a radio, a siren and a clock. It’s the coolest

thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I have a first-aid kit, my antibiotics,

Band-Aids and Neosporin. I have a little lightweight blanket and a camera. I

have clean underwear and socks, Kleenex, toothpaste and toothbrush. The writer

in me made me pack a journal and a book, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew,

so I could read to my children. Extra batteries and a

cell-phone charger. Then I put sweatshirts on top so we could tie

sweatshirts around our waists.”

Ms. Barker is one of a sizable number of New Yorkers who

have taken things a bit further than pestering their doctors for Cipro, the

antibiotic which can be effective against anthrax. Instead, they have packed survival  bags-including

a stash of Cipro, of course-and plotted escape routes in the wake of the Sept.

11 terrorist attack on the World Trade

Center.

Ms. Barker, who is in her 30’s, said that among her friends,

the ones who talk about possible nightmare scenarios are those without bags.

“The reason I’m not afraid is because fear is your survival instinct telling

you to do something,” she said. “And once you take

steps, you can release the fear and know that you’ve done as much as you can,

and go through the world more worry-free than most. Which is

what I’ve done.”

Does she carry the bag with her everywhere she goes? “No,

I’m not that insane,” she said.

For two weeks after Sept. 11, Lily Chang, a 22-year-old

sales associate at the jewelry company M+J Savitt, carried a Hervé Chapelier

bag back and forth to work. What was in it? “Twelve hundred dollars in cash,

sneakers, two pairs of jeans, two wife-beaters, two cashmere turtlenecks-you

know, like, basics,” she said. “Photos of my family, because

they live in L.A., my Day Runner, my Palm, cell phone.”

“My biggest concern was, if we have to leave right away,

will we have enough cash to live in the wild?” said Ms. Chang, laughing. “I

thought I was one up on everybody about that.

“Just packing the bag didn’t make me feel more secure or

more prepared,” she said. “It was just something I had to do to calm my nerves.

I’m very obsessive-compulsive, and the act of putting the bag together, folding

things, checking things off in my mind, made me feel better. My friends thought

I was a little crazy for doing it.”

She dismantled her bag last week. “We’ve adjusted to living

in this chaos,” she said. “The more information you were provided, the more in

control you felt.”

Manhattan

resident Adam Patrizia, 22, has a duffel bag hidden in the back of his Land

Rover, which is strategically parked in Brooklyn between

the Brooklyn and Manhattan

bridges in Park Slope with a full tank of gas. He said he had packed his bag

with “a 10-day supply of Cipro-which I got awhile ago for the flu-a flashlight,

two gallon jugs of water, batteries, clothes, three gas masks-not the ones you

need, though, just the doctor’s kind-rubber gloves … you never know what you’ll

be touching! A first-aid kit, a beacon my mother bought me, an atlas, blanket,

toilet paper, gum.” He has also stashed away some cash. “I almost drained one

of my Merrill Lynch accounts,” he said.

 “I don’t have any

food,” he added. “My mother really yelled at me about that. But I’d be the

stupid person who packed cans of food but no can opener.”

His roommate, Joseph Rudler, 23, has his bag ready for the

great Land Rover escape. In addition to basic clothes, sneakers, cell phone and

charger, Mr. Rudler packed the main necessity cited by the younger people

interviewed: cash in the event that the banking system goes down. “I have

$300,” said Mr. Rudler.

Vincent Morgan has his food situation under control. The

32-year-old Harlem resident, who works in politics, bought The S.A.S. Survival

Guide (the S.A.S. is the elite special air force of the British military) when

he was living in South Africa. In addition to dried soup (“It’s lighter than

canned goods,” he said), the big backpack in his front hall contains “a gas

mask, seven gallons of water, a medical kit, waterproof matches, hand-crank

flashlight (which is rechargeable), enough warm clothing for a week, underwear.

I understand people who say it’s a guy type of thing to do: We’re more into

camping, roughing it-that kind of thought process.” Asked if the bag made him

feel more secure, Mr. Morgan said: “Not 100 percent secure. But in these times,

feeling 10 percent more secure is a start. The events of Sept. 11 show us that

anything is possible.

“People laugh at me, especially at the office,” Mr. Morgan

continued. “They’re scared, so they don’t want to acknowledge that it’s a

sensible thing to do. I wish more people understood that it’s not being

panicky. I mean, when you’re on a plane, you identify the exits just in case.”

Brian Bumbery, a 29-year-old music publicist, packed for

practicality. On Sept. 11, the Maiden Lane

resident had to evacuate with his two large dogs and a big wheeled suitcase,

which kept getting stuck in the ash. When he returned five days later, he said,

he filled the suitcase with “the stuff that I love, the stuff that gives me

comfort. I thought, ‘What if I need to evacuate again?’ No more white-collar

trail of tears for big boy here.” Weighing in at 78 pounds, his suitcase

contains “three days’ worth of prescription dog food, dog medication, two dog

bones, one week’s worth of clothes, plus twice as much underwear, in case I

have to wear the clothing for longer than a week-but when one is displaced,

purchases are 100 percent tax-deductible-and a sheepskin that I practice yoga

on, one pair of nice shoes (I would wear my trainers so I don’t need to pack

them), a few sweaters in a large Ziploc bag, one North Face ski coat stored in

the stow pocket to maximize space. Oh, and a bottle of

Cipro.”

Mr. Bumbery said that he plans to unpack his suitcase any

day now. “I went to L.A. last

weekend, and coming back, I don’t think anything will happen,” he said.

“I do have Cipro, I don’t have gas masks,” said 18-year-old

hotel heiress Nicky Hilton. “I’ve tried to get one on the Internet, but there’s

none available.”

What if something happens? “I think we’re going to go to Southampton,”

she said. “I don’t feel safe. I am scared. I’m not too scared, but I’m scared.

I’m relatively scared.”

Her sister, Paris Hilton, has also been making plans: “I

bought a gas mask. Every time there’s a threat, my boyfriend and I go to Rye

in Westchester and stay at the Ryetown Hilton. Or we go

to my house in the Hamptons.”

Did she have Cipro, like her sister? “What’s that?”

“I know people who have already prepared a backpack with

survival gear-all the normal stuff you’d need to survive outside, warm leggings

and polyprophelene, basically as though you were going to live in a desert,”

said Dr. Steven Lamm, clinical assistant professor of medicine at New York University,

who filled 30 prescriptions for Cipro on a recent morning. “I have a patient

who bought three new bicycles so that they could ride out of the city. That

way, he can camp out in Westchester. I’m not laughing at

these people. None of us can be cavalier about terrorism. I think what we need

to do is to try to get a rational approach. The stuff that you may think you’re

preparing yourself for may not be the method used by the terrorists. Stocking

up on every known antibiotic is not going to give you any more security than

the person who doesn’t stock up at all, in all honesty.

“I still think in reality the greatest risks to America

are those conditions we already know about-high cholesterol, hypertension and

mental disorders like depression,” he said. “Let’s treat those which we know

are killing people.”

“I’ve had several patients leave New

York, move,” said David Silverman, a doctor on

Central Park West. “Ironically, one of them moved to Boca. One moved to Arizona-these

are not people of retirement age. I had a Wall Street guy who picked his entire

family up and went to their Jersey Shore

house to ride it out.

“I’ve been trying to allay peoples’ anxieties,” he said.

“I’ve received easily 250 phone calls today; I’m hoarse from talking.”

Then there are those who, like the majority of New Yorkers,

are leaving things more or less to fate.

Nature and fashion photographer Peter Beard said he had not

packed a bag. “I don’t believe in it,” he said. “You know what they say in

Swahili: Shauri wa mungu-‘Don’t make so much effort,

it’s basically God’s plan.’

“I’m going to celebrate consciousness for as long as I’m

conscious,” he said.

“I am totally unprepared for whatever they’re expecting,”

said writer Fran Lebowitz. “I have no emergency provisions of any sort. I have

to admit, I hoarded cigarettes. I know a lot of my friends instantly ran out to

buy food. I guess I was planning on living on olives, which I always have a

plethora of here. I didn’t buy any food or water, but I really hoarded

cigarettes because I knew that if we were cut off, no one would make this

humanitarian effort to get cigarettes in here.

“I’ve had several people talk about leaving New

York-whether they will or not, I don’t know,” Ms.

Lebowitz said. “I would consider it in the no-great-loss category. I do know

people who have bought gas masks, the most absurd thing I can possibly imagine

…. For all I know, everyone has them but they’re just not telling me. I pretty

much have no patience for this kind of thing. I think they overvalue their

lives and they always have. They’re just not worth it. We’ll survive without

them. These are the same people who have always had excessive self-regard. It’s

rich people. Up until the attack on the World Trade Center, the rich in this

country in the last 10 years have pretty much figured how to secede from the

rest of life: They have their own transportation systems, their own school

system, their own housing systems, and this-especially when it becomes random,

which is what I fear it will become-there’s no way to protect against this. You

just can’t wave a lot of money at it. So they’re looking at ways to get around

it. In other words, if there’s none of this drug that everyone wants, this

antibiotic, they’ll find a way to get it. Then they’ll have this drug. You know,

so what? Then they’ll have a gas mask-what are they going to do, wear it all

the time?”

She added that she wasn’t dismissing the real threats. “When

it was happening, of course, I was very fearful,” she said, “because they had

said that there were eight planes hijacked, and I kept hearing planes over my

building and I was terrified. I’m not saying that I live without fear, but I

can tell you that I definitely am without plans.”

Comedian Janeane Garofalo said she has no Cipro, no gas

mask.

“But I do have a bunch of gold bricks and a rifle,” she

said. “And I sit in my apartment, and whenever I hear any noise in the hallway,

I shout: ‘Get off of my land!’ And that’s what I’ve been doing. Hopefully,

that’ll suffice in lieu of a gas mask.”

Asked about New Yorkers who were buying gas masks, she said,

“You can never go too overboard, but are you willing to watch your pets

writhing in pain as you secure the gas mask? I don’t have one because of my

dogs. I’m hoping that me and the dogs can go together,

as quickly and painlessly as possible.”

She said she was not scared of death. “There is no point in

not being ready to die,” she said. “And also, it might be kind of interesting

if someone says in passing, ‘Hey, whatever happened to Janeane Garofalo?’ And

the other person will say, ‘Jihad.'”

The Get Away