July 7, 2017
At 3.15pm last Sunday (click here) I was standing in a slow-moving line at the Gelateria at Eataly, on the third floor of the World Trade Centre 4 in lower Manhattan, when I saw a supervisor move towards the women dispensing the ice-creams. He spoke quietly but we could hear his words: "We need to evacuate the building."...
...On the mezzanine I was slightly unnerved to see camouflage-wearing soldiers standing beside the NYPD, but they too seemed unruffled and that calmed us. Whether by training or instinct, these officers were managing our fear and thereby preventing what could have been a dangerous eruption of panic-driven efforts of self-preservation....
...A few hours earlier, President Donald Trump had tweeted a video of himself seemingly beating up a reporter from CNN, the cable news channel that he excoriates as a source of "fake news" for its reporting on his presidency. It was perhaps the maddest and most inflammatory of his tweets to date (and that's saying something) and it was chilling to realise that this is the man who would be in charge of calming the nation had there actually been a terrorist attack at the World Trade Centre that day.
I was reassured to see the wisdom of the crowd last Sunday. It gave me some hope to see people exude a calm control that eludes their President. While he rants, they were orderly. He incites violence, they were savvy enough to know how to stop us all from coming to harm....
...we had dined at Eataly and been more than a little discomfited to find ourselves gazing down on the two large reflecting pools, that mark the site of the twin towers that disintegrated in the terrorism attacks on September 11, 2001.
More than 3000 people died in those attacks. Their names are etched on the edges of the reflecting pools in a powerful and emotional commemoration of the horror of that day. The memorial is a place to ponder on the evil of that action. It did not seem right for it to be part of the outlook from an expensive restaurant.
Yet it is a sign that September 11, 2001, is an intrinsic part of the city's story, absorbed into daily life, making people careful but not cowed. Broadway audiences uncomplainingly submit to scans of handbags just as airline travellers accept full body scans. New York will do all it can to prevent another attack but, as I learnt last Sunday, if there's a threat, the people know what to do.
It's a shame we can't say the same of the US President.