Our residence-office building is about four miles from the World Trade Center, so we were never in danger, although this past week we could still smell the smoke. Shortly after the attack, all subways, tunnels and bridges were shut down stranding our staff in Manhattan. Our phone and Internet service went out.
We almost didn’t get the magazine published that week. With our D.S.L. line down, we could not send copy to our printer in St. Cloud, Minn., on Wednesday and Thursday. And our normal backup, FedEx, could not fly. Ingenuity and hard work by our production team—Robert Collins, S.J., and Tatyana Borodina—enabled us not only to get the magazine out but also to include the latest news in the Signs of the Times and a timely editorial. Everyone pitched in and performed marvelously under difficult circumstances.
All of this seemed a minor inconvenience compared with the suffering and loss of so many thousands. David Toolan, S.J., our associate editor who recently underwent surgery for a brain tumor, put it well: “On Monday [Sept. 10] I was feeling sorry for myself. On Tuesday, I got over it.”
Associate editor James Martin, S.J., was in lower Manhattan at ground zero ministering to the police, firefighters and rescue workers in the days following the attack. His report in this issue and last week’s recounts the courageous and dedicated work of these men and women. On the first Sunday after the attack, he celebrated the Eucharist amid the rubble for the rescue workers. Father James Stehr, our 74-year-old house manager, also went to one of the local armories to help counsel people trying to locate missing family members and friends.
New Yorkers are a tough crowd, but their tears and compassion were evident after the attack. Normally ready to boo anyone on the slightest provocation, they were cheering Con Ed workers and dump trucks making their way to and from the disaster zone. They were especially grateful to the out-of-town police and firefighters who came to their rescue from Chicago and Florida, to say nothing of the nearby states. Things are beginning to get back to normal in our neighborhood, but there is still a feeling of mourning in the air.
It is going to take a long time to get over the shock of what happened. Tatyana, who survived the disaster at Chernobyl in Ukraine, never thought she would experience anything like that again, especially in the United States. None of us did. I think that I am still in denial, but then one story or picture will tear at the heart and make it real.
No one on the staff lost relatives in the attack, but we all have friends or friends of friends who were directly affected. The closest calls were for the daughter of Judith Urena, our bookkeeper, and for the husband of Julia Sosa, our advertising manager. William, formerly of America’s development office, had until recently been working regularly at the World Trade Center for U.P.S. Judith’s daughter had offices in the World Trade Center and in Philadelphia.That day she was in Philadelphia.
On Friday, Sept. 14, we held a memorial service in our chapel for the victims of the attack. We continue to remember them in our prayers and Masses. If there is anyone you would like us to remember, please write or e-mail us their name.
We have also been hard at work soliciting articles from experts on the ethics of dealing with terrorism, as you can see in this issue. We hope that they will raise the level of debate on how the United States should respond to this crisis.
Please continue to keep us in your prayers. And continue to pray for our nation as we try to cope with this disaster and its aftermath.