Michael Dorgan in New York
It’s the ‘city that never sleeps’, and on Wednesday it was very much the city that never stops, even in light of the evacuation of Time Warner Centre, home of CNN, where a package containing a live explosive and an envelope with white powder were sent.
The action came as state and federal agents investigated packages mailed to Democratic figures around the country, including the Clintons in Chappaqua and former President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., as well as former Attorney General Eric Holder and California Rep. Maxine Waters.
Situated in Midtown Manhattan on Central Parks south-west corner, the beautifully designed 750 foot twin glass-clad towered structure, and self-proclaimed “city within a building” due to it eclectic mix of houses, retail stores, restaurants, performance venues, offices, as well as luxury hotel rooms was the first major building to be completed in Manhattan after the September 11 attacks. And although construction had begun prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center, Time Warner Center was seen very much at the time as a statement of resilience by New Yorkers, that the show goes on and the show must go on.
Yet, for those in the immediate vicinity of the area last week, memories of that fateful day came rushing back.
Georgie Guerrero, a worker in the Museum of Arts and design, a stone through away on 8th Avenue said, “It brings back memories of 9/11 definitely, we don’t know what’s going to happen at any day so it’s crazy”.
It was a beautiful, clear and crisp autumn morning, when at around 10 am the alarm was raised and Time Warner Centres occupants were hurried out onto 58th street to the adjoining 8th Avenue and convened at their Central Park entrance assembly point.
“It was very scary, our team met at Central Park and waited for our managers but I think the people around here are used to it you know because this is always a target”, said restaurant worker Ethan Ramagomi.
Now situated between evacuees and their building was Columbus Circle, a heavily trafficked intersection that stretches to six lanes wide where a 76-foot monument of Christopher Columbus stands at its center, serving as a quick dichotomy of two very different worlds.
A heavy New York City Police Department team immediately cordoned off the four-lane wide 58th Street to the public with yellow tape and metal barriers as international TV crews quickly gained vantage points to broadcast. So too did CNN and its presenter Chris Cuomo, (the brother of New York Governor Andrew) who reported live outside a building he usually looks out from.
“We waited there until about 12:30 before we were told to go back inside”, remarked Ramagomi.
NYPD and its bomb squad had taken the materials off site and had the situation under control pretty swiftly.
For the most part, passers-by glanced up and kept walking, unperturbed by the morning’s events. Some had no idea at all that they were at the epicentre of the day’s main breaking international news story. Others had received mobile phone alerts and save for the odd subway delay it was a case of “as you were” in the Big Apple.
Perhaps it was the sense this was likely an act of domestic terror or a lone nut, the previous fear and grande threat of Muslim extremism seems to have abated somewhat.
Shops directly across from Time Warner Center remained open and bar being shut off for two and a half hours, there was no problem walking up along its sidewalk as a lone NYPD helicopter hovered overhead throughout the day.
Nevertheless, there was a sense by some that the current political climate has borne this as inevitable.
“I think if there’s crazy people in the world, someone’s going to do something stupid,” remarked Eddie Slevin, a lifelong New Yorker.
“It’s very amateurish and it doesn’t reflect all of society, but naaah, there was no fear or anything like that, I don’t think anyone pays attention. But when you see people throwing things at people and you say it’s not a mob, eventually someone’s going to come back”, alluding to reported incidents of violence or threats against GOP candidates and volunteers recently.
“Look most people they don’t get involved but you’ll get some nut that’s gonna say I’ve had enough of this and I gotta fight them and certainly Trump instigates it,” he said.
A local store manager displeased he lost his morning customers remarked, “It’s all for nothing”. Still I wouldn’t go that far.
There seem to be two very distinct worlds; a biosphere of incessant media hysteria versus an on-the-ground calmness, borderline dismissiveness.
That being said, there is certainly something in the air.