Magazine article The New Yorker

Shots

Magazine article The New Yorker

Shots

Article excerpt

The shooting last Friday morning on West Thirty-third Street at Fifth Avenue--with two dead and nine wounded--was, in the terrible calculus of American gun violence, not an especially significant event. The night before, no fewer than nineteen people had been shot in Chicago, thirteen of them in the span of just thirty minutes. That was preceded, of course, by twelve dead and fifty-eight wounded at a showing of "The Dark Knight Rises," at the Century movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado; seven dead and three wounded at the hands of a white supremacist at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin; plus shootings at Alabama's Auburn University, Texas A&M, and the Family Research Council, in Washington, D.C. Friday's shooting--which was, one hopes, the last in this string of summer murders--was distinguished perhaps less by its bloodshed than by its iconic location: the Empire State Building, with its souvenir shops selling King Kong figurines and its tourists milling around.

By just after ten o'clock, about an hour after the shooting, the area around the Empire State Building had been blocked off, leaving Fifth Avenue eerily carless. Helicopters hovered overhead. While the Mayor and the Police Commissioner were inside a CUNY Graduate Center building going over police reports and figuring out how to explain an inexplicable event--a handbag-company employee who had lost his job murdered the man who reportedly fired him and then was gunned down by police--stunned office workers and food venders wandered about, giving their own press conferences.

Felipe, an employee of the food distributor Sysco, was unloading his truck in front of the Hotel Metro, on Thirty-fifth Street, when he heard gunshots. He saw people running, heard them screaming; "I hid behind my truck and stayed down there until it was over." Diana, a dental assistant from Flushing, had just got a caramel macchiato at the Starbucks on the ground floor of the Empire State Building when she heard five shots. She threw her coffee to the ground and crouched down until the shooting ended. "I knew what they were," she said, of the sounds. "I've heard gunshots before."

Troy Cobb, a burly deliveryman, had seen the shooter from above: he'd been moving equipment in the building when he heard the first shots. Initially, his view had been obscured by a tree. …

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