At lunchtime, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) stood at a lectern in the midst of the hectic construction site where new buildings and a memorial to the Sept. 11 victims are going up. The mayor, small in gray pinstripes and surrounded by construction workers with faces like beefsteaks, struggled to be heard above the sound of whanging and the beep-beep-beep of large machines backing up. A dozen cranes swung at various angles, blowtorches flashed white fire, hydraulic drills hammered. Guys in hard hats and muddy boots and tool belts that chinked stood on steel beams and wood scaffolding to listen to the mayor, who seemed to catch the grim satisfaction of the city just right.
“This is a day we shouldn’t forget that 3,000 people died,” he said. “It’s a little hard to have a smile on our faces.” Then there was the reality that bin Laden’s death didn’t lessen the threat of another attack. “Whenever a terrorist is captured, he usually has a map of a big city in his pocket, and the city is usually New York,” Bloomberg said with resignation.
The construction, the mayor said, was a “rebuke” to the terrorists. “Nothing will ever return our loved ones — but we are rebuilding from the ashes and the tears a monument to the American spirit. New York’s way is ever forward, ever skyward. . . . Today, let the spirits that are all around us know some peace and justice.”
But on the dais with Bloomberg was Anthoula Katsimatides, who wasn’t feeling much peace or justice. Her brother John died 10 years ago in the middle of his work morning at Cantor Fitzgerald. Katsimatides heard the news of bin Laden’s death while watching television with her mother. “I cried for quite some time because, you know, this doesn’t bring my brother home,” she said, a tear running down her cheek.As for whether bin Laden’s death was justice, “I think that’s for God to judge.”
Another death, no matter how deserved, couldn’t restore the lives or the buildings or the peace. There was still a ragged hole in the sky where the towers had once lunged upward. Before Sept. 11, if there was a crack in the city, it was because it was jackhammered there. Disaster was a crane falling. The danger was from within, not from without. Menace was in the bushes and behind the rocks in Central Park, in alleyways and stairwells and subway tunnels. Rodents, molesters, muggers. Trouble was transit strikes, sanitation strikes, teacher strikes and blackouts. In the early 1970s, as the twin towers were being built, the city stank, and it churned, and the rest of the country despised it, as it would discover in 1975 when President Gerald R. Ford (R) refused to give it a bailout. As the Daily News headline said back then: “Ford to City — Drop Dead.”