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Attacks hit close to home for New Yorker

9/13/2001 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

NOTE: A photograph of Linda Bloom is available.

By Linda Bloom*

NEW YORK (UMNS) - I thought the big news of the day was going to be the results of a hotly contested mayoral primary race.

I left my apartment early on Sept. 11 to vote, and then drove members of my car pool down the Henry Hudson Parkway, from the Bronx into Manhattan. About a half-hour after I arrived at the Interchurch Center at 475 Riverside Drive, the husband of a co-worker called and told us to turn on the television.

We were astounded by what we saw. It was a beautifully clear morning. How could a pilot be so blind as to crash into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center? As the newscasters speculated about the cause, an explosion struck the second tower, and it became apparent that this was no accident.

The three of us at United Methodist Communications felt very vulnerable in our 19th-floor office, even though it was a safe distance from the disaster at the other end of Manhattan. This was becoming personal. Our fellow New Yorkers were under attack.

The worst moment of horror came when the first tower collapsed. I didn't have to be close enough to see bodies falling to know that thousands of lives were being lost with it.

When the second tower crumbled into dust, we all knew that life in New York would never be the same.

Suddenly, it seemed very important to get home, to be with family. But getting anywhere, on or off the island, was difficult. For the first time, the entire subway system had been shut down. Manhattan's bridges were closed. The choice was to walk or to wait.

I waited. I had talked to my husband in his midtown office and knew my 8-year-old son was safe at school in the Bronx. I walked around the offices of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, looking for car pool members. Some board employees, worried about friends and relatives who work downtown, were crying as co-workers comforted them.

Back in the Bronx, additional rescue vehicles, sirens blaring, streamed south on the parkway outside our apartment, headed toward the disaster. I stopped watching the television reports at 11 p.m., slept for an hour or so, woke up. To lie there in the dark, eyes open, was to think too much. I got up, watched television briefly, and tried to sleep again. I repeated that pattern until after 3 a.m., when exhaustion set in.

The day after was just as surreal. We made no attempt to follow a normal routine. Most of the time I felt numb, but tears could, and did, well up in my eyes at many unexpected moments.

Residents of my neighborhood seemed to heed Mayor Giuliani's plea that people stay out of Manhattan. I had never seen the local streets so crowded, even on weekends. It was as though performing the mundane tasks of life - buying a cantaloupe at the fruit stand, getting a haircut, trying on new shoes - offered a reassurance that everything would be OK. Or maybe we just wanted to know we were not alone.

Of course, we are not, as the many e-mail messages and calls from concerned friends, family members and even total strangers have demonstrated. The first e-mail I received was from a pastor from Oklahoma, a place where people know too well the suffering that comes from unspeakable terrorist acts.

The suffering hasn't ended, not by a long shot. The most heart-rending images on local television right now are of people searching for missing relatives, with pictures of their loved ones mounted on posters or sheets of paper or pinned to their shirts. They are hoping against hope that a small miracle will occur amid the madness.

But has the madness ended? On the morning after, my son Jack, in a very matter-of-fact voice, said, "Mommy, I think the bad guys will try to bomb either the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building next."

I offered reassurances, weak and unconvincing to my own ears, that nothing more was going to happen to New York.

That night, police evacuated a wide area around the Empire State Building after a suspicious package was found. It was a false alarm, but we already have learned the inconceivable can happen.
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*Bloom is news director of United Methodist News Service's New York bureau, with offices in north Manhattan.

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