The Day After in New York

Chris Matthew Sciabarra

We are all devastated over this tragedy.

Though I've thought about such apocalyptic destruction --- especially when the World Trade Center was bombed last time --- I never thought I'd see the day that the Twin Towers would be brought down in rubble, and that they would never be a part of the skyline of my home.

The thousands of people whose lives have been snuffed out, the millions of people who are directly affected by this... I just can't tell you how horrific all of this is.

I only know that when I went out to walk my dog for her second walk of the day, on Tuesday, the day of the bombing, the sky was gray with smoke, and it was raining white ash. I live in Brooklyn... and the F-16s are flying above.

On the day after... there is an eerie calm over the city this morning; the streets are quiet, except for the distant sound of F16 jets patrolling NYC.

All of my family members are now home, safe and sound. Several were close to the carnage and witnessed the actual terrorism first-hand. It is a sight that they will never, ever forget.

All were impressed--but never surprised--over the extent to which New Yorkers have shown their amazing resiliency and humanity toward one another. There are actually too many volunteers.

The only near-fatality of an extended family member of which I am aware is my sister-in-law's cousin. He was on the 89th floor of the first tower that was struck; that strike apparently occurred on the 96th floor, but the devastation quickly spread to the floors above and below. He was able to get all of his workers to safety, except for two who were killed. He is now in Bellevue Hospital, recovering from smoke and ash inhalation, but we expect a full recovery.

A couple of other people we've not made contact with just yet... but we're pretty hopeful that they are okay. But the world, as they say, is small... and it will be hard NOT to know somebody or to know somebody who knew somebody who was killed in this horrible, horrible tragedy.

I think back to March 1999, when THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION interviewed me atop the World Trade Center, in the Windows on the World restaurant-lounge. They picked the building because of its significance as NY's tallest, and because of Rand's paeans to the skyscraper. Jeff Sharlet, the reporter, interviewed me for three hours, as I sipped seltzer and looked out over New York's grand harbor, the Statue of Liberty looking tiny--but like a guardian to our gateway.

They invited me back the following week, and the photographer took me to the top of 22 Cortlandt Street, so that he could get a "Howard Roark"-type photograph of me, with the Twin Towers behind me, in the frame. I remember how I could hardly deal with the fierce March wind as I stood on the roof, 40 stories up, across the street from the Twin Towers. But if the wind hadn't taken my breath away, I would still have been literally breathless from the sight. I have lived in New York my entire life, and I have always marvelled at the magnificence of our skyline.

In any event, the photo appeared in the CHRONICLE, along with the interview, on April 9, 1999, the first major academic press discussion of how "Ayn Rand Has Finally Caught the Attention of Scholars."

Other photographs taken that day have been used for a NAVIGATOR article on my work and can be found on my website in the photo section.

I looked at the article last night, and saw that photo, my eyes like slits from the wind, and could not believe that the two buildings used as backdrop for that photo, the two buildings between which I am situated have ceased to exist.

We are stunned and devastated. This city has turned around over the last decade; we have been proud of the remarkable drop in crime rates and welfare rates. Our city is cleaner, safer, alive, and more civil than I've ever seen it.

And then this happened. I do not know how long it will take for lower Manhattan to climb out of the rubble. I only know that New York is still one of the greatest cities on the planet Earth, and if anyone ever doubted it, all they need do is look at how people have taken a hands-on approach to this nightmare. We will survive. And we must prevail.

I am very touched by the great outpouring of personal support that I have received from so many of the participants on this list, and from all over the world. Thank you... most sincerely.