I never thought New York City could experience anything worse than the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I was wrong.

The memory of that day is seared in my mind. I recall taking the Metro North train into Grand Central terminal and hearing that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I assumed it was a Cessna that had gotten into an accident, so I proceeded downtown by subway, heading to my office at the Wall Street Journal. The train went no further than City Hall. When I walked out of the subway, I was confronted with a scene out of Dante’s “Inferno.” White ash and soot everywhere. Sirens screaming. People running. The first tower had already fallen. I saw the second tower burning, people jumping, and then the tower collapsing.

Here’s the weird part: In spite of this unprecedented cataclysm, life in the rest of the city and the region went on pretty much as normal. I remember walking back to Midtown later that morning and being struck that the cafes and restaurants were still open. I was evacuating a war zone but, if I had so desired, I could have stopped to have a cappuccino and croissant en route. I took a Metro North train back to Westchester County, where I then lived, and logged on from home to help put out the next day’s newspaper. That night, I took the recycling to the curb. If you didn’t watch the news, you wouldn’t have known that the United States had just suffered the worst foreign attack on its soil just 26 miles from where I lived.

Now, there is no escape from the horror of the coronavirus — even when you are not in the city. In mid-March, our family took a long-planned trip to Hawaii, where we are stranded until further notice, with our kids now getting up at 3 a.m. local time for online classes. But as a longtime New Yorker, I’m following events back home closely — and with mounting horror.

As of Wednesday night, more than 45,000 New Yorkers had contracted covid-19 and more than 1,300 had died. In recent days, the city has been suffering one fatality every 10 minutes or so. New York City alone accounts for roughly a quarter of all coronavirus cases in the United States. A data model from the University of Washington predicts that New York state will suffer 16,090 covid-19 deaths by August. If current trends hold, roughly half of those will be in the city. That would be nearly three times the toll of 9/11 in Gotham.

New York is once again ground zero, and this time the impact is not limited to downtown Manhattan. An enemy far more insidious than al-Qaeda is inside the wire. The coronavirus has overrun every borough, with Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx particularly hard-hit. The 911 system is overwhelmed with more calls every day than on Sept. 11. Hospitals are overflowing, and temporary medical facilities are being erected everywhere — including at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, in Central Park, and at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, where the U.S. Open is played every year. A Navy hospital ship has docked on Manhattan’s West Side. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has deployed 85 refrigerated trucks to New York City to serve as temporary morgues.

First responders, grocery-store employees, pharmacists, doctors and nurses, food deliverers, transit workers and other ordinary heroes are risking their lives to keep the city functioning. Everyone else has been told to stay home. So many have left, at least in Manhattan, that many apartment buildings are said to be half-empty.

Restaurants, bars, hotels, clubs, concert halls, theaters — everything that makes New York the greatest city in America, if not the world — have closed, save for those restaurants eking out a meager business with food delivery. Like every restaurant-goer, I am being inundated with email appeals to contribute to funds for laid-off employees. Mayor Bill de Blasio estimates that a half-million New Yorkers will lose their jobs by the time this is over.

Like other New Yorkers in exile, I am anxiously monitoring the news and wondering when it will it be safe to return. In my spare time, I have retreated from the dismal present into the glories of the imagined past: I am reading “Rules of Civility,” Amor Towles’s novel set in 1930s New York, and watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” a TV series set in 1950s New York. I feel pangs of nostalgia every time the characters go into iconic establishments that I have visited many times, such as the 21 Club, the Village Vanguard and Barney Greengrass. I cannot help but wonder whether any of them will still be there when I return.

Of one thing I am certain: The same indomitable spirit that got New York City through 9/11, and so many other hardships, will get us through the current crisis. But why does one city have to suffer so much?

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