New York City, where both James Cagney and Colin Powell spoke Yiddish, is a city of immigrants. The newly arrived often end up in the businesses of their established relatives, and thus it is that an ethnic group comes to dominate a segment of city life. Italian grocers have given way to Korean grocers. Greek coffee shops are almost a cliche. There are Israeli-run car services (what non-New Yorkers might call taxis), often with Arabic-speaking drivers. One of the latest manifestations of this phenomenon is — I kid you not — southeast Asian tortilla stores.
As I passed ABC’s large Lincoln Square complex yesterday and today, I noticed another horrible hole in the urban fabric of New York. The coffee, bagel, and donut cart usually on the corner was gone. I haven’t seen one on any corner in days. The ethnic group that has dominated that little niche has been people from Afghanistan.
On this first day of the Jewish New Year, I missed the friendly man who would prepare my sesame bagel with cream cheese (75-cents) as soon as he saw me coming down the block and who would greet me with a smile and a bright, “Good morning!” — just what I could use on my way to a 6 am call. I hope he is all right. I hope he is not frightened of retaliation. Maybe he and his compatriots are serving the rescue workers downtown. I hope so.
Something else missing is campaigning. The primary election, which was to have been held last Tuesday (which is one reason so many reporters were around), has been postponed to next Tuesday. There are virtually no campaign posters to be seen, and one candidate for mayor said he wished the current occupant of that position could continue. Term limits are forcing Mayor Giuliani out of office. Last Tuesday morning, he probably drew relatively equal amounts of approval and disapproval. Today, I’d say his approval rating hovers around 150%. Formerly anti-Giuliani New Yorkers are amazed (and often amused) at their conversions, but converted they are. Now the candidates are saying that we should vote simply as a patriotic act. I’ll be voting, as I always do, to choose those I’d like to have represent me.
Security has been increased at the places where I work, which is a nuisance. We need to wear ID tags. We can no longer roll camera, lens, and pan-head boxes into position without stopping at checkpoints to have the contents inspected. Closed entrances and exits demand long, circuitous routes. Oh, well. Those should be our biggest problems.
We have a new ferry from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Sixteen subway stations are currently closed, and no one is complaining. Earlier this year, one station had to be closed for construction work, and the topic was newsworthy for months.
Workers made it to the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) train station 80 feet below the World Trade Center today. It is intact, with an unscathed train sitting in the marble station. But it is deserted.
The Science section of today’s New York Times reports that the debris might be the only thing preventing the Hudson River from pouring into that station, crossing to New Jersey via the train tunnel, connecting to other tunnels to midtown Manhattan, and flooding the New York subway system. Yikes! Workers are plugging up the New Jersey end of the PATH tunnels from the World Trade Center just in case. I recall seeing those tunnels hanging in mid-air in the vast excavation of the WTC foundation.
Something nice I saw today was a moving van unloading dozens of new chairs for the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center, which used to be my favorite spot to do research. The library has been closed for renovations for years. It was supposed to have opened in July 2000. I take the chairs as a sign that it will open soon. YAY!
The various televised benefit/memorial preparations continue apace. There has been some minor bickering among the planners (“But I need the cameras for MY show”). We’re working everything out. Vendors, crews, and unions (which wanted to make sure their members weren’t coerced into working free) are all being very generous. I hate to single anyone out, but two of the vendors that stand out in my mind are Scharff-Weisberg (which doubled the number of projectors it is supplying without a whimper when the producer asked for a bigger screen) and All-Mobile Video (which responds to calls for additional equipment as though we were paying a premium instead of getting it free).
Messages arrive from across the country from people who want to help. I appreciate all of the offers, even if I can’t accept them all. I know I’m fortunate to be able to be doing something to help (I’ll try to keep that in mind on my tenth consecutive 20-hour day). I know it’s harder on those of you who want to help and can’t. Remember the words of John Milton in 1652: “They also serve who only stand and wait.” We DO appreciate you — VERY much.
Hang in there. It’s important for you to make the TV shows (and the commercials that pay for the TV shows, and the equipment used to make the shows and commercials) that will entertain us in the future. If you experience any doubt about that, please rent and watch “Sullivan’s Travels.” It works for me.
As we left today’s TV show, my wife had a lengthy conversation with one of the long-time security guards at the Metropolitan Opera (there are other, newer ones seemingly in every hallway). He said it was strange that people outside New York seemed to be so angry. He said New Yorkers were sad and sometimes frightened but, by and large, not angry.
I began yesterday’s Monday Memo with a remembrance of my friend, WNET transmitter engineer Rod Coppola, still among the missing. I’d like to end today’s report with a remembrance of three other victims of the tragedy, none of whom I’ve ever met: Adelal Karas, Waqar Hassan, and Balbir Singh Sodhi.
Karas, of Egyptian Christian heritage, was killed Saturday in San Gabriel, California. Hassan, of Pakistani Muslim heritage, was killed Saturday in Dallas. Both might have been victims of robbery/murders, but, in the words of a Dallas police spokesperson, a “considerable amount” of money remained on the crime scene, apparently in both cases. There’s less doubt as to the motive in the killing of Sodhi, of Indian Sikh heritage. The person charged with his murder, in Mesa, Arizona, reportedly shouted, “I stand for America all the way” as he was handcuffed. According to a radio report today, he couldn’t understand why HE was being arrested instead of those he called terrorists.
Today was the first day I cried.