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Normal rhythms return for some

By Anne Barnard, Globe Staff, 9/12/2002

NEW YORK - Mohammad Zaman had meant to stop at 10:05 a.m. and remember the moment he almost died, when a barrage of dust and concrete blew in the windows of Corbet & Conley, the coffee shop where he works in what was once the shadow of the World Trade Center.

But when the time came yesterday, he was too busy, and that, to him, was the sign that everything was finally all right.

''Next on the line, next on the line, talk to me, talk to me,'' he barked from behind the counter. ''Ham, egg, cheese on a roll, you got it.''

He dumped six wrapped sandwiches at the register for the owner, George Jamieson, to ring up. It was 10:18 a.m.

Outside, the announcers were reading the names of the dead, finishing up the R's and starting on the S's.

Zaman, 31, spread out a crisp new sheet of white paper and looked up, ready to build the next sandwich.

A woman in black asked tentatively, ''Do you have raisin bread?''

''Raisin bread I have - talk to me!'' Zaman eyed her with a mix of intense attention and barely veiled impatience - a look you might see on the face of any fast-moving counterman on any day on any Manhattan street.

The woman, it turned out, had lost her brother in the attacks. Zaman wasn't unsympathetic. He was just happy to be working hard and fast.

''I feel like I'm becoming normal,'' he said.

Zaman, a small man in a brown, flowered shirt, was startled yesterday morning when his wife called at 5:45 from their native Bangladesh.

He thought maybe she had heard about some new attack.

''My heart is going,'' he said, fluttering his hand in front of his chest.

''I feel like it's going to happen again.''

Strangely, though, he felt safer once he was at work, only yards away from ground zero. ''I feel better with all the people.''

Business was brisk, serving crowds of victims' families and uniformed bagpipers. But there were also ceremonial visits from regulars like Jennifer Kirby, who never made it to work that day last year and returned yesterday for the first time to touch her now-abandoned office building with her hand.

From Sept. 11 to July 8, the cafe was forced to close. Greenwich Street, a narrow thoroughfare parallel to the Hudson River, turned into a loading dock, where workers hosed down truckloads of noxious debris on their way out of ground zero.

''Other than today, business is 20 percent of what we used to do,'' Jamieson said. ''But you can't cry over money when so many people are dead.''

Last year, Zaman was closing the cafe after the planes hit, not dreaming the towers would fall, when there was a roar and then blackness.

''It took me 10 or 15 minutes just to get out of the cafe,'' he said. ''All I hear is the human voices, saying `Help me, help me.' Glass was falling, slicing up everything.''

Yesterday, the cafe held a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the minute when the first plane slammed into the South Tower.

They meant for the whole place to fall silent again 10:29 a.m. to mark the falling of the second tower.

But it wasn't until 10:32 a.m. that Zaman stepped into the street, and then only to check on the ice in the sidewalk drink bin.

''We just forget,'' he said. ''Why didn't you remind me?''

This story ran on page A24 of the Boston Globe on 9/12/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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