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As evening fell on Thursday, the ghettos gradually returned to normal. On some streets there was almost a sense of camaraderie between the cops and the black and Hispanic youths. Some of the officers in Bedford-Stuyvesant swung their long riot sticks like golf clubs, sending tin cans and other debris flying out of the gutter. "Hey, man," called out a black youngster with a chuckle, "your grip is all wrong." In the South Bronx, a brightly lit Ferris wheel slowly revolved in the night sky, its two-passenger chairs filled. Sporting shiny new Adidas jogging shoes, a young teenage boy in Harlem said with a trace of wistfulness: "Christmas is over."
For the owners of the 2,000 stores that were.plundered, Thursday was a day of reckoning their losses. It was a day of sweeping up debris, nailing plywood across jagged, broken windows and pondering whether to reopen. Alan Rubin, owner of the Radio Clinic discount center on Manhattan's upper West Side, told a reporter: "I'm responsible for 25 families—the families of the people who work for me. What's going to happen to them if I pull out? As bad as I got hit, there are other guys who got wiped out. What's going to happen if they can't reopen?"
Those willing to reopen were eligible for low-interest loans of up to $500,000 from the Small Business Administration. More than 400 store owners asked for information about the loans, but many others were skeptical. They said that they had been stripped bare and demolished, that all they had worked and saved for over the years was gone, that it was financially and emotionally impossible for them to start again. Declared Stanley Schatel, owner of Nice & Pretty, a badly damaged sportswear store in Brooklyn: "Get a loan? Are you crazy? You think anybody in his rightful mind would want to get back to this neighborhood?" Yet quite a few merchants were thinking of doing just that. "I have to pay off the creditors," said Gary Apfel, owner of Lee's Store, a men's clothing store in Harlem. "I want to close, but I can't afford to close."
More people than just store owners had to make fresh starts on the morning after the night of darkness. Rose Stevens, an elderly widow, wandered weeping down Broadway in Brooklyn, looking for a new place to live after spending the night alone in her $57-a-month apartment above a meat market that had been burned out by vandals. "I wish I died," she cried. "I'm almost 70 years old, and I have no place to go."
Many black and Hispanic leaders across the country were dismayed by the rioting. In a typical comment, Carlos Castro, president of Chicago's Puerto Rican United Front, noted that the plunderers were poor and lived in slum housing, though he said of the violence: "You can't justify it." So far, there were no signs of a white backlash, even though many broadcast and newspaper accounts of the power failure emphasized the disorders. Sample headline from the Los Angeles Times: CITY'S PRIDE IN ITSELF GOES DIM IN THE BLACKOUT. Newspapers abroad also focused on the looting. A headline from Tokyo's Mainichi Shimbun: PANIC GRIPS NEW YORK; from West Germany's Bild Zeitung: NEW YORK'S BLOODIEST NIGHT; from London's Daily Express: THE NAKED CITY.