That word is Hero.
In spite of the fact that I am normally a cynical and jaded SOB who despises pandering rhetoric I must say that I don’t think the word will be used enough.
It will be used to describe the Firemen and Police and first responders.
It will be used to describe those who lost their lives on the most dreadful day in the history of this Nation.
It will be used to describe the families and loved ones left behind to pick up the pieces of shattered lives.
Every single time it is used it will be justified and valid and perhaps even understated.
However, the greatest Hero of that day is quite simply the people of The City of New York.
As well organized and effective the attackers plan was carried out, they made a critical error in their stated goal of ruining the American way of life.
The picked the wrong City. In the wrong country.
I have been in enough bar fights to know what it is like to be sly rapped…hit when your not looking. When that happens you usually hit the deck and one of two things comes to your mind once you have dealt with the initial shock of the attack. You can lay there and try and figure out why this happened or you can get up off the deck and kick the shit out of your attacker.
If you are a New Yorker there really is only one option. The latter is the choice, which is exactly what The City did.
The City hit the deck, but it bounced back up and began the fight immediately. They fought back by taking care of each other.
They fought back by giving blood, and money, and time, and heart and soul.
In the lowest and loneliest time possible the one thing all New Yorkers knew was that they were not alone.
New Yorkers knew right from the first moments of the attack that they were in this together. That they would be there for each other in whatever way possible.
As an example of that, think of this.
When the City was in utter chaos the first few hours after the attacks how many arrests were made for looting or arrests of people trying to take advantage of an awful situation.
The answer is none.
One of the quintessential moments that clearly embodies who New Yorkers are, happened at the Concert For New York a few weeks after the attacks. With big time musicians and celebrities all taking the stage at Madison Square Garden to show their support. However,the show was stolen by the brother of a fallen firefighter. This big roundfaced Irishman from Rockaway stood on the stage, stated his name and his address, and in true New York fashion told Osama Bin Ladden that if he was looking for a fight, he was more than welcome to stop bye. “I’ll be waiting for you” he challenged.
The joint went nuts.
I was in San Francisco when the attacks happened and while I was heart broken I was also never so proud to be a New Yorker.
The stories came in not only about the heroic efforts of the first responders but the kindness and selflessness of The City. Stories of generosity, of kindness, of self sacrifice, of giving. I found it odd that some of those stories were told as if it was a shock that New Yorkers were human beings capable of those emotions.
It was no shock to New Yorkers.
A few days after the attack I was having dinner at the Balboa Café in SF with an old and dear New York friend, Pete Hickey. As we had our dinner our attention was split between our conversation and the television watching the coverage and listening to the stories of our fellow New Yorkers.
At one point Hick looked and me and said “ Isn’t it a bitch that something like this had to happen for people to realize what kind of people New Yorkers really are?”
Truer words were never spoken.
There is an old joke about the tourist walking around New York and asking people “can you tell me how to get the Empire State building…or should I just go fuck myself?”
The joke is usually told to illustrate how rude and callous New Yorkers are. I love the joke because to me it illustrates how we don’t take fools lightly. New Yorkers are busy people and sometimes just don’t have the time or the inclination to deal with your minor issues.
Like finding the tallest building in the City.
However when the chips are down when you need help the most…give me a New Yorker any day of the week. This comes from someone who was once left for dead in the middle of Broadway by a hit and run driver. My fellow New Yorkers came to my aid in what seemed like a flash. Reassuring me, calling for help and making me feel that all would be right and it was. I was in the hands of my brethern New Yorkers.
I never thought for a second that I would write something comparing my feelings to those of Carrie Bradshaw the heroine of Sex and The City. However in one episode when she was going through yet another break up she spoke about how no matter what happened with men or with her career she would be just fine because she had that one…great… true love… New York.
I grew up in Manhattan and that is exactly how I feel about New York. It is the great love of my life. The heroics of the city were no shock to me.
The City is in it’s essence an Heroic place. It’s size, it’s beauty, it’s diversity.
The City is an Heroic place on a daily, hour to hour, minute by minute basis.
It is not just a City of survivors but a City of people who live life. They work hard and play hard. They love and fight and drink and curse then go to Church. In a moment they can be the hardest asses in the world and in the blink of an eye the most caring and giving people you will ever meet.
The Heroics of that day was how I would expect New Yorkers to act. If anything it was predictable.
I have lived all over this Nation and when I first meet people they figure out where I am from rather quickly.
I have been told it is a combination of the accent and attitude.
I am usually asked the question “Do you miss New York?”
My answer is “ at this point of my life I don’t miss New York… but I miss New Yorkers. With all fucking my heart”