If You Want To Humble An Empire

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LYLE OWERKO / POLARIS

(13 of 20)

Churches opened their sanctuaries for prayer services. St. Bartholomew's offered water and lemonade to everyone passing by. The noon Mass at St. Patrick's was nearly full. "We pray as we have never prayed before," said Monsignor Ferry. "Remember the victims today. Forgive them their sins, and bring them into the light." Posted defiantly in every window of one restaurant was the sign WE REFUSE TO GIVE IN TO TERRORISM. CIBO IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS. GOD BLESS AMERICA. A well-dressed man in a suit sat on a bench in Central Park, his head bowed, his hands clasped between his knees. A carousel of quiet toys turned in the darkened windows of FAO Schwarz.

There were no strangers in town anymore, only sudden friends, sharing names, news and phones. Lines formed, at least 20 people long, at all pay phones, because cell phones were not working. Should we go to work? Is the subway safe? "Let's all have a good look at each other," a passenger said to the others in her car. "We may be our last memory." The passengers stranded at La Guardia Airport asked one another where exactly they were supposed to go and how they were to get there. Bridges, tunnels and ferries to Manhattan were not running. Strangers were offering each other a place to wait in Queens, giving advice on good diners in Astoria. Limousine drivers offered to take passengers to Boston for a price. A vendor dispensed free bottles of water to travelers waiting in the hot sun.

Dr. Ghoong Cheigh, a kidney specialist at New York Presbyterian Hospital, was handed an "urgent notice," along with other arriving staff: "The disaster plan for New York Presbyterian Hospital is currently in effect, and an emergency command center has been established." All elective surgeries were canceled, and any patient well enough to be discharged was released to make room for the incoming wounded. At Bellevue, the city's largest trauma center, an extra burn unit was set up in the emergency room. The night shift was called in early. The psychiatric department staff, the biggest in the world, was mobilized to meet the survivors and families. "We actually have too many doctors now," chief medical officer Eric Manheimer reported in midafternoon. "We thought we would have more patients." By 5:40, only 159 patients had been admitted — which suggested not how few had been injured, but how few could be saved.

Security guards were turning all cars away from New York Weill Cornell Medical Center, allowing only emergency vehicles through. Around 10:40 a taxi pulled up, bearing three women and a man. Security tried to stop them, but a woman yelled, "We have a woman in labor here!" The guards waved them through.

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