Little is silent in New York
Not ready to concede defeat, few in city appear to heed call for remembrance
By JAN WONG, The Globe and Mail
Saturday, September 15, 2001
NEW YORK -- At noon yesterday in the iconic heart of New York, there was no moment of silence. Buses roared through Times Square. Taxis honked. At the stroke of midday, two police cars dashed past, sirens blaring.
Few New Yorkers took the time out for the day of mourning called for by President George W. Bush.
Under a steady drizzle, it appeared that only one man took a moment in Times Square to mourn the dead. Rodolfo Sequeira isn't even an American. A green-card holder from Nicaragua, he was an ironworker at a job site nearby. He came dressed in dusty jeans, construction boots and a hardhat in which he had stuck a small American flag.
A moment before noon, Mr. Sequeira, 55, pulled out his cellphone to check the time. Then he bowed his head. "We work hard in America," he said later, in heavily accented English.
"We will work harder to rebuild."
Yesterday evening, knots of people gathered for candlelight vigils on street corners.
It may be too early psychologically for New Yorkers to mourn. You mourn the dead, not the living. With about 5,000 people reported missing in the World Trade Center attack, no one wants to concede defeat.
Richie Pappas and Julian Falco, two burly electricians, later said they had observed a moment of silence over lunch at Carmine's, a restaurant on 42nd Street. The waitress brought their platters of gnocchi, chicken sausage and meatballs on the stroke of noon.
"Really bad timing," Mr. Pappas said. But he bowed his head and prayed.
He wasn't positive, he said, but he thought that diners at the other tables had kept on eating.
Around the world, millions took to heart Mr. Bush's call for a day of mourning. Even in Iran, 60,000 spectators observed a minute of silence at the Tehran Soccer Stadium. In Berlin, 200,000 gathered in the heart of the city. In South Korea, sirens blared for one minute.
In Finland, taxis pulled over. Icelandic fisherman in Reykjavik stood silently on the docks. Stock exchanges from Norway to Austria halted business for three minutes. In Britain, shoppers stood silently in stores and Queen Elizabeth cut short her vacation to attend a memorial service in St. Paul's Cathedral.
In Canada, more than 100,000 people gathered on Parliament Hill to observe a three-minute silence.
"It's a shame. People are doing it all over the world except for us," said Carlos Gudiel, a manager at Dallas BBQ, a sprawling restaurant near Times Square. Asked what had happened at noon there, he shook his head: "Zero."
Then he thought for a moment. "Maybe it's just something that was overlooked because everybody's grieving so much."
He may have a point. Raoul Garino is the maître d' at the Metropolitan Club, a members-only club whose roster includes Bill Clinton. Normally urbane and very French, Mr. Garino lost his composure when he talked about how many friends he had lost. "Forty-five. Forty-five," he said, softly repeating the shocking number.
For several years, Mr. Garino had worked at Windows on the World, the glamorous restaurant at the very top of the first World Trade Center tower to be hit. The kitchen staff, who had gone in early on Tuesday to prepare lunch, never had a chance.
Mr. Garino said he was trying to unearth a picture of a young Asian woman who worked there. No one seemed to have a photograph of her, and her closest relative, a grandmother, lives in San Francisco. Her friends wanted to put up a missing poster. Mr. Garino refused to accept that there was little hope of finding anyone alive from the 110th floor.
If the Metropolitan Club hadn't recruited him, he mused, he might still be working there. He was there for lunch just three weeks ago, treating his nephew who was visiting from France.
"I introduced him to everybody," Mr. Garino said. And then his eyes filled with tears and he turned away.
Many refuse to give up hope. And so Manhattan bus stops and phone kiosks are papered with missing-persons flyers. But unlike the usual milk-carton kids, these flyers describe, not abducted children and runaway teens, but secretaries and stockbrokers, fathers and mothers, husbands, wives and grown children.
"Hurry home, Daddy," says one poster, that includes a photo of infant twin daughters.
Other flyers reveal details of privileged lives, lives that aren't supposed to end like this. Dan Song, who worked at the World Trade Center, was wearing a "silver Rolex watch and Gucci or Ferragamo loafers." Gregory James Trost, who worked at a brokerage firm on the 89th floor, was wearing a "Tommy Hilfiger belt and brown Kenneth Cole lace-up shoes, size 11."
The detail of information reveals how desperate their families are and how little privacy now means to these New Yorkers. Diane Lipari, who worked on the 92nd floor, had "an old burn scar covering her entire right knee." Another flyer says that Christine Flannery, who worked at a law firm on the 104th floor, had a "mole over her left breast."
At St. Patrick's Cathedral, the landmark Gothic church on Fifth Avenue, a few more people than usual showed up to pray yesterday morning, the security guards said. But the noon mass was routine. Special masses, to remember the victims, are scheduled for tomorrow and Monday and will be celebrated.
In the cathedral yesterday, one worshipper had a stars-and-stripes bandanna tied around his arm. Another stuck a flag in his backpack. Outside on the streets, many had stuck flags on their cars and trucks. Until yesterday's rain, sidewalk vendors, the most nimble of capitalists, were selling small flags, two for $5.