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Still aching, New York joins in a healing ritual

By Fred Kaplan, Globe Staff, 9/12/2002

NEW YORK - When the Police Department's drum-and-bagpipe band marched down Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn yesterday, a few blocks from Linda Green's home, she had no intention of joining its growing entourage for five miles and then across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan, to the edge of ground zero.

But that's what she and about 200 other early risers found themselves doing.

''I thought I'd just watch the procession, maybe walk along a couple blocks to be a part of it,'' said Greene, 44, an advertising executive. ''But it seemed like the right thing to just keep going.''

On the Manhattan side of the bridge, hundreds more turned out to greet them and the four pipe bands from each of the other boroughs of New York, who by 8 a.m. had converged on the site where the World Trade Center towers once stood.

''I came to watch the bagpipers come across the bridge, because I think rituals are very important,'' said Carol Fagan, a lawyer dressed in black. ''They are healing.

''But I don't think it ends here,'' Fagan said of the city's mourning. ''I think we carry it for the rest of our lives.''

All across this city yesterday - at ground zero and Grand Central, in law offices and museum galleries, on Broadway and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade - New Yorkers were coping with the unending rawness of 9/11, some loudly, some privately, some by ignoring the whole media-saturated event.

Many gathered a few miles north, in the park at Union Square, where, one year ago, thousands came to light candles, sing ballads, argue politics, and scrawl prayers and messages on yards and yards of posterboard.

Early yesterday morning, another town hall wall was up, already filled with new messages: ''I will never see the sky the same way.'' ''Goodbye, friends.'' ''You've got to go on for all those who cannot - life is a precious gift, use it wisely.''

Stacie DeJongh, 27, who works at a nearby bookstore, stared solemnly at the wall. ''It's bringing back everything from last year,'' she said. ''The day of the attack, I didn't leave my apartment. I was too scared. The next day, I walked around a little. It was amazing to see people so friendly. I'm feeling that today, too.''

Kurt Genden, 32, a marketing executive, said: ''For New Yorkers, it hasn't been a year. We've lived with it every day. Every time you look at the skyline, you deal with it.''

Still, he and five other employees from his office came to the square, just as they came last year, to pay tribute and post a message themselves.

Manhattan was quieter, less crowded, less bustling than usual. Traffic was sparse, and horn-honking was almost nonexistent, even in such normally jammed and noisy spots as Times Square and the Lincoln Tunnel. Cashiers at several bodegas and delis said business was light; many of their usual customers, it seemed, had stayed home.

Among those who did come to work, many did just that, worked.

''Most of the people I know aren't watching any TV or listening to any radio today,'' said Bruce Cohen, a Manhattan publicist. ''In our office, we're playing Ella Fitzgerald CDs.''

Landis Best, a partner at a Wall Street law firm, had an urgent deadline with a client and asked his associates if they minded working late. ''Some of them said that they would rather be working and have their minds occupied on something than be at home watching TV and being depressed,'' he said.

Many sought more contemplative sites to observe the anniversary: chamber concerts, church services, poetry readings. One movie theater showed free screenings of Woody Allen's ''Manhattan.''

Winiferd Cerran, 28, a graduate student at Clark University, now living here with her family, was among hundreds who came to an exhibition of 9/11 artifacts at the New-York Historical Society, a museum on Central Park West.

''I wanted to commemorate in some way, but I'm trying to avoid the mass media, TV, radio, even newspapers,'' Cerran said.

Amy Schrader, 31, a marketing executive for a technical company near ground zero who ran from the collapsing towers a year ago, stared at a glass display case filled with items recovered from the site: a set of keys, a firefighter's bolt-cutter, and a jar of dust from the World Trade Center.

''It's weird looking at this exhibition,'' Schrader said. ''There was so much of that dust. I was trudging through it. It makes me think: `OK, it's history, but it doesn't feel like history.'''

Her husband, Jacob Schrader, 36, a bond trader, was awed by a nearby display of a crushed pay phone and a fragment of the trade center's facade, tangled and twisted as if it were a piece of modern sculpture.

''This gives me more appreciation than I had of just how destructive this force was,'' he said.

The Promenade of Brooklyn Heights, just across the river from Manhattan's southern tip, has always provided the grandest view of the city's skyline. Hundreds who last year watched it burn came back yesterday to remember.

Ethan Schlesser, 35, a teacher and musician, sat looking at the gaping hole left by the fall of the Twin Towers. ''Coming here gets me closer to the realization that it did happen,'' he said of the attack. ''I feel compelled to come as close as I can to the pain of people who lost someone. We're pretty close, sitting here, but I still can't believe it happened.''

In some parts of the city, memory crept up on people when they didn't expect it. During rush hour at Grand Central Station, commuters stopped at a 12-foot-long wall covered with photos, the year-old ''missing'' posters, of people who died in the towers. The wall has been at Grand Central for months now, but was moved to the center of the main concourse yesterday.

''I had to walk away from it, or I was going to lose it,'' said Laura Schmidt, 38, an artist from Mahopack, N.Y., who has avoided coming to the city since last September but came yesterday to join friends at a church requiem.

Lily King, 45, a relocation consultant from Sherman, Conn., stood at the display for several minutes. ''I don't know anybody on that wall,'' she said. ''But as a New Yorker, they are all my brothers and sisters.''

Only nine of Broadway's 24 theaters were open yesterday, and ticket sales were slow at those. Possibly because of the orange security alert, the Empire State Building's observation center was nearly empty.

''Usually it takes an hour or 45 minutes to get to my window,'' said Milly Feliciano, a ticket-booth employee. ''Today there's no wait.''

Those who did go up to the 86th floor did so as an act of defiance.

''I've got a ticket that says 9/11 on it, I wanted to have that,'' said Richard Dane, 49, a transportation worker from Gig Harbor, Wash. ''I came here and wanted to go in the tallest building I could get in. They're not going to scare me away.''

Anne Barnard of the Globe Staff and Globe correspondents Peter DeMarco and Angelica Medaglia contributed to this story.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 9/12/2002.
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