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I caught a cab which took me to 42nd Street, where roadblocks had been set up, and walked the rest of the way down to Penn Station. The doors were closed, and thousands of people were waiting outside for them to open. Most of them were commuters waiting for trains to Long Island or New Jersey, dying like me to get out of the gravely wounded city, the war zone, the target zone, and back home to their families. No one was saying a word. Thousands of people, regular, decent Americans, just waiting to get home. No one was complaining. How could anybody complain about having to wait for a train, about anything, after what had happened to the people who worked in the towers?  There was something very moving about the way they were all just standing there. I had been down on the whole new parochial, anti-intellectual, anti-environmental, dumbed-down, born-again cast of the American zeitgeist, epitomized by “Dubya.” I had been feeling more radical, more revolted by the mainstream society, now than I ever did in the sixties. But the humility of the people waiting for the doors of Penn Station, the patience and politeness and consideration that they all realized was the correct response to the situation, renewed my faith in the fundamental decency of the American people, and in that special quality that exists only in New York City: “heart.”
I had just put together some reminiscences about the city for TheSpook.Com’s September issue.
Its people and institutions, its energy has been incredibly important for me professionally and personally, even though the only time  only time I have ever lived there was for a few months in l970. I was trying to make it as a singer-songwriter and had sublet an apartment on Second and 2nd from a coke dealer that was around the corner from the Hell’s Angels. Eights years later I was commuting from Westchester to my office at the New Yorker and having lunch at the Century and playing squash at the Harvard Club. This was a completely different New York. There are many different New Yorks, and I’ve been exposed to maybe half a dozen of them over the years. After my 1978 Amazon book, I wanted to write a big book on New York, to follow the ultimate natural jungle with the ultimate human jungle (which is in my view as “natural,” in its own way, as the Amazon), but was waylaid by financial considerations, as has often been the case with my more ambitious undertakings. Plus Mr. Shawn, the New Yorker’s legendary editor, of whom I and everyone else at the magazine were in awe, had tactfully shot me down with the question, “Don’t you think that taking on all of New York City might be too big? ”
The one thing that cuts across  all the different New Yorks is this quality of “heart.”  I first came into contact with it in l967 when I landed a summer job between my junior and senior years of college as a cub reporter for the New York Daily News. My job was to write captions for the Sunday Coloroto Magazine about the weekly bathing belle (“Svelte, statuesque Barbara Contino graces the springboard of the Astoria pool,” etc.) and another column called “Mainly For Seniors” (“ Despite her years—all l04 of them—Mrs. Sophie Slobodein of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, is an active cuisiniere”). The most interesting one was called New York’s Changing Scene. My editor, a wizened New York Irish veteran of the City Desk who periodically fortified himself with nips from a flask he kept in his vest pocket, would hand me a snapshot of a streetcorner in one of the boroughs taken in 20s or 30s, and another one taken from the same spot that was only a few days old. Often there was no discernible overlap. The scene had totally changed. I would scrutinize the old photo with a magnifying class, pick out things, and do research on what it was like back then. This was excellent training for the Dispatches, now that I look back on it. How many times in my world travels have I returned to some beautiful place I had passed through a few years early and found it completely obliterated.