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SLUG: 7-36032 Dateline: 9-11 Six Months Later




TITLE=9/11 Six Months Later: New Yorkers Reflect

BYLINE=Adam Phillips



EDITOR=Neal Lavon


INTRO: Exactly six months have gone by since September 11th, when terrorist attacks leveled New York's World Trade Center. New Yorkers continue their efforts to cope with that calamity. In this Dateline report, VOA's Adam Phillips spoke with several New Yorkers about their feelings, their attempts to heal and the effort to rebuild.


TEXT: Six months ago, on the morning of September 11th, students were attending classes at Stuyvesant High School, 300 meters from the World Trade Center. When two hijacked planes deliberately crashed into the twin towers, the site bcame Ground Zero, and the students were ordered to flee for their lives. On a warm spring-like day, 14 year-old Irena Bryan lazes with her friends at a nearby basketball court. She recalls how the streets were choked with people covered with filthy gray ash.


"We didn't know what to do or where to go and all the phones were down. And when I finally reached my mom, she was crying because she was watching it on TV, and she asked me 'am I ok,' if I was hit or anything, or if I am coughing because of the dust.

We were just a few blocks away. The day before it happened, I went with my friend to the World Trade Center. We went to buy schoolbooks. And if it had happened the day before, we would have been in there!"

TEXT: The students at Stuyvesant High were permitted to reoccupy their building just five weeks ago -- an event which parents and school officials hoped would restore a sense of normality to these adolescents. But for Elaina and her schoolmate Julia, life just feels different after "nine-eleven." Elaina speaks first.


"ELAINA: They are like 'you should just move on, forget about this, it'll go away.' But I think it's not going to go away.. Maybe it's just like that in high school, but since I came, I see kids doing drugs and smoking and I've seen a lot of that since Sept 11th. I've been wondering if it's been affecting it. It's the stress and everything they say.

JULIA: It's sort of been very surreal. You don't get used to looking down the street and seeing the sky and not seeing office windows.. I actually remember turning back to school and seeing it and wondering why the sky was there. It seems like a funeral of sorts. Like someone is gone. Like a person is gone, even."

TEXT: While none of the girls in this small group knew any of the approximately three thousand people who were killed that day, they have experienced some of the human toll secondhand. Irena's neighbor in Brooklyn, a close friend of the family, arrived late at the World Trade Center where she worked, and so narrowly escaped with her life.


". And exactly when she got out and she saw people falling from the top of the building and people running away and there was like dust everywhere and people were crashing into the ground all around her. And some guy fell on her and he was dead and he was half burned and stuff. And so she started screaming and ran into the train station and went back. But she has been stuttering ever since that day and she still hasn't stopped."


TEXT: According to a Milken Institute study, an estimated 150 thousand New Yorkers lost their jobs as a result of the World Trade Center attacks. This subway rider, who happened to call in sick that day, was among them.


"Q: What did you do?

A: Security.

Q: What have you been doing to try to cope with the change?

A: I just try to do one day at a time. Keep looking for a job. Every day I go to the unemployment office. Going downtown, like I'm doing now, to City Hall, [to] fill out applications, [and] put in resumes.

Q: Is it getting easier or harder?

A: Right now, it's hard. But I'm hoping that it will get easier. Not just for myself but for everyone. I just hope there will not be. another attack."


TEXT: Lower Manhattan was more than a place to work and go to school. In recent years, many families have made their homes there. Lisa Hagerman's three and a half year-old daughter was at nursery school when the planes hit. After two months, the family returned home and Ms. Hagerman held a reunion gathering for her neighbors, all of whom had been dispersed. But many faces were missing from the party.


"I don't know how my daughter perceived that all those people she had seen for three and a half years were gone! All her friends and their parents and the groups that she had known. I told her a plane fell down. I didn't say that someone had intentionally blown up the neighborhood. But I wanted her to see that her friends were okay.

Q: It's like you're living a war zone.

A: Absolutely."


TEXT: On a nearby Hudson River pier, Christopher Devlin helps to supervise the cleanup effort. He watches as debris from Ground Zero is unloaded from trucks and lifted by cranes onto waiting barges.


"... and on my first walk through I had no idea how or where we were going to do all this cleanup. When they said we were gonna be planning for a year cleanup. I said you're gonna be here for longer than that. It made the excavators and the loaders and all that look like toys.. But then, I'd say a good month into it, everyone got on a regular workflow and everything was coming out nice and smoothly with steel and debris over here.

Q: How much more work do you have to do?

A: I keep hearing 'Memorial Day.'[May 30] But I don't know. We're still doing hundreds of trucks every day. No one really knows."

TEXT: Most of the task of heavy steel removal Mr. Devlin's first job complete. It was a twenty-four hour seven day a week project that deepened Mr. Devlin's bond with his fellow workers.


"I came on-site not knowing them and them not knowing me and it was pretty much a working relationship, and by the time the job was over, I think those guys would kill for me and I'd kill for them if it came down to it. The unity was just unbelievable."


TEXT: Just above and a block away from Ground Zero, the city has erected a viewing platform where tourists and New Yorkers alike can get their own perspective on the work. We hear a community affairs police officer as he welcomes the next group in an endless wave.


"The city of New York has built this ramp for people who have a burning desire to view the devastation that happened here on 9-11. Some of us up here are looking for closure. Others are videotaping and taking pictures for family and friends who can't be here with us. [FADE UNDER FOLLOWING TEXT. OUT BY "VIEWER" CUT].

TEXT: A young man named "R-J" came here from Connecticut. He explains why.


"This is probably the event of our lives and probably a turning point in our lives and decided it was something we had to see.

Q: You say it is a 'turning point.' How have you come to view the experience over time?

A: My feelings haven't changed since Day One. It's pure murder. And I think people who commit murder and plan the murder should be held accountable for it."

TEXT: Dominican-born Belkis Lopez comes here every day. For her, the World Trade Center symbolized the American Dream and the opportunities she received as an immigrant. She admits she is still almost incapacitated with grief from the attack, which also killed her best friend. She closes her eyes and weaves in and out of prayer.


"God please help the American people so we can survive because we don't know what's going to come next. I don't feel safe anymore. .I want to leave. But I said I can't. Why? These people they helped me. So now that they need me, I'm gonna be with them with my pray, I'm going to pray so . this doesn't happen anymore to us. That helps me to survive when I pray. I just hope that God bless America so they can go back to the normal life. Because it's not going to be like before."

TEXT: Six months after September 11th, New York's native exuberance is steadily returning. Subway rider Vicki Ross perhaps speaks for many when she says that for her, life has moved on, but her view of life has changed.


"Living in New York, you find that it is a dog-eat-dog [highly competitive] world out there, and I am trying to behave differently and trying to be kinder and nicer and more understanding to most people.

Q: Have you found that reflected in the people you meet?

A: Yes and no. [laughs]"

TEXT: A song from a musical about New York City called On the Town, proclaims New York is a helluva town. Its reputation as a bustling, influential, and sometimes haughty metropolis, has made New York the city that other Americans love to hate. But since September 11th, Americans, and people all over the world, have admired New Yorkers' courage, kindness, humanity, and fortitude. If the terrorists who planned the attacks thought they would bring the city to its knees, they were wrong. They didn't know what New Yorkers and the authors of that song did. . . that indeed, New York is a helluva town. For Dateline, six months after 9-11, this is Adam Phillips reporting from New York.

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