{ missing pieces }

Late Afternoon in Greenwich

I stood staring at a man's picture, his eyes gazing out at me from the missing person's flyer. He was smiling and wore smart dress, as if on a dinner date or at a business function. He looked a kind and decent bloke, about my age. I felt a connection with him, even though I knew we would never meet. I wished I could call his wife and tell her he is fine, that he was one of the lucky ones who got out alive. But I couldn't. That thought weighed heavy on my heart.

Suddenly there was a commotion on the next corner. A group of firefighters was coming off duty, dusty and exhausted from their long shift. As they came onto Houston, people clapped and cheered them from the sidewalks, as heroes returning from battle.

And heroes they were. Who can imagine the stress and strain they have been under today? The pain from the loss of their fellow firefighters and close companions. The hideous sights they have seen. The long battle to control the fire. Working on despite the stench of death and the stifling, poisonous atmosphere. Giants among men.

I had a profound and unexpected feeling of optimism. In the face of unspeakable evil, goodness and humanity were striking back. The strength and resilience of New Yorkers will enable them to overcome this terrible adversity. It will take time, but the fear and dread will pass.

As I walked back along Bleecker Street, I noticed that many of the bars and restaurants were open and the tables were crowded with people telling their stories, helping each other to make sense of it all. Outside Radio Shack, a group crowded round a TV that was set up on the sidewalk, eager for news about survivors.

I reflected on all the acts of human kindness that today had seen. The shoe-seller who stood on the corner handing out free sneakers to women fleeing the dust and falling debris. He knew that they could not run away fast enough in heels. I thought of the long queues of people waiting to give blood, at medical centres across the city. The continuous relays of food for rescue workers and police officers, donated by restaurants and supermarkets. The shiny relief fire trucks whose crews came from as far afield as Maryland, Tennessee, Maine and Baltimore. And countless other small good things that will go uncelebrated, but add up to so much.

At the corner of Bleecker and Sixth I caught the smell from a bakery. Freshly baked bread, straight from the oven. From an upper floor window there was the delicate sound of classical music being played on a piano. Across the street, some guys were shooting baskets and playing handball inside a cage. As I passed by I heard laughter for the first time in ages.

It seemed to me that the healing had already begun.

David Drake

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