Magazine article Insight on the News

New York Shows Strength in Adversity

Magazine article Insight on the News

New York Shows Strength in Adversity

Article excerpt

The Big Apple always has been an anxious sort of place and New Yorkers the most frenetic, competitive, on the go, on the move and brusque city dwellers on the globe. Three weeks after Terror Tuesday the city still is alive with kinetic energy and New Yorkers remain in a hurry, but they and their beloved city are changed in ways that tear at the heart.

Physically the loss is obvious from outside New York City -- from across the Hudson in New Jersey, and from Connecticut looking down Long Island Sound. It isn't so much a wound as emptiness, and for those accustomed to seeing the twin towers it still requires a shake of the head to appreciate the absence.

"It is there but not there," says violin maker Jim McKean. "Like a ghost limb -- very spooky."

And New Yorkers are spooked, dazed by what no one ever could foresee happening. They mourn for their city and for themselves. Kind-eyed Raymond Rife, a psychotherapist with Crisis Management International Inc., says that the entire city needs grief counseling and that the cycles of bereavement and trauma will take weeks, even months and years, to play out.

Hired by several major financial institutions to counsel employees who worked in the twin towers and neighboring skyscrapers, Rife also worries about the millions who saw the devastation happening from a distance or watched on television as people jumped from the towering infernos.

Traumatic-stress syndrome exhibits itself in different ways, he says. "People can suffer sleeplessness, tearfulness, depression, anxiety and rage," he says. So hard-pressed are some firms from their employee losses that they haven't been able to allow their survivors enough time with counselors -- though the New York Stock Exchange has made grief counseling mandatory for its 2,400 traders and clerks, who returned to their traditional trading floor at 86 Trinity Place on Oct. 1.

But it isn't just the survivors or the rescue workers. Firefighters and police who scrambled to assist and saw hundreds of their colleagues die or disappear beneath the crashing towers are struggling now with the obvious signs of trauma. Many New Yorkers who weren't near the heart of darkness, except in spirit, say they, too, are having difficulty sleeping or find themselves with tears in their eyes and lumps in their throats.

Manhattan remains subdued -- there is quietness on the sidewalks amid the din of the much lighter rush-hour traffic. Pedestrians are wrapped up in their thoughts. At night the downtown streets are all but deserted of pedestrians and, even on rainy nights, securing a taxi is unusually easy, with two or three immediately screeching to your disposal. …

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