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[This Just In]

Itís war


TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 11:54 A.M. ó Like thousands of other New Yorkers, I was sitting at my desk at a few minutes after 9 a.m. on Tuesday. I was checking my e-mail when my sister called me on the phone. " Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center, " she said. " Thereís smoke all over the place. " Being a naive sort, I said, " Maybe there was some air-traffic-control problem. " But as we all rushed into one of the offices to watch on television, it was clear that it was terrorism. No way do two planes accidentally plow into the same building, striking both towers kamikaze style. Soon I ran two blocks over to Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street, which affords a clear view down to the twin towers, to look at the billowing smoke. Thousands milled in the street, talking on cell phones: many had run out of the Empire State Building there with fear in their hearts. A plane had crashed into that skyscraper in the 1930s, killing dozens. I looked up at the building and promptly retreated to my office.

Manhattan is cut off from the world: under siege. The authorities closed every bridge, subway, and tunnel to everything except emergency traffic. As I write this I do not know whether I will make it home tonight. Phone service is erratic, too. As for the city primary election that was to decide dozens of local offices ó forget about it. We watched the tube as our world literally came crashing down around us. First the south tower, then the north, covering the Financial District in a cloud of ash. A blow aimed straight at the beating heart of the American economy. Reports of the terror in Washington twisted our stomachs even more. I kept thinking: itís war; itís war; itís war. I have a number of relatives in Jerusalem who have for the past year been living with fear in their guts. So now we know how it feels: up close and dangerous, a totalitarian enemy that knows no bounds, that lives to murder and strike fear. In the Bronx, where we live, my husband sat in his home office and listened as ambulances streamed south into Manhattan on the Henry Hudson Parkway. No one wants to think of the thousands of dead and wounded that are surely going to inundate every hospital from here up to New Haven and down to ó who knows, maybe Philadelphia.

In my office at the Forward, a Jewish weekly newspaper, we try to go on, assigning reporters to get whatever story they can as people sit back and try to absorb the carnage that is still taking shape. Jewish officialdom will have its say; we will record the security measures that every institution took as all hell broke loose. (Security is also a question in this building, which has a sign in Hebrew lettering for the Jewish bookstore on the ground floor.)

But will we ever feel secure again?

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Issue Date: September 11, 2001