Among the monuments left to photograph, the Empire State Building stands tall. But if you do stop to take a picture of it, you may notice something different near the top. The ring of twinkling lights is gone from the observation deck: there are no tourists there photographing you. The building has been left unilluminated at night since, I don’t even remember when it was, Monday? It would almost be comforting to suppose it were a sign of mourning, but one has to think it is a question of defense.
In the park are those who point it out on this second of loveliest days—but not many, it is relatively quiet in Midtown—this last and longest standing of rivalrous siblings. And where are they, all those hordes of visitors? Not on the streets. But there has been no egress from a newly sober Gotham. Ninth wonder of the world this, the withdrawal of the polyglot throng.
Most do not look long at the building, though. They prefer their books, a hand around their coffee, an arm around their love. Different sorts of comfort in the spectrum of that emotional intensity through which we pass in the course of a normal day. These comforts carry new meaning, now, in the very fact of their belonging to that spectrum. More than simple reminiscences of the ordinary, they are the—only seemingly—tentative taproots of imperative life.
And people do watch the building; I am sure, it is as a signal of that life.
Tomorrow, the Stock Exchange will reopen. The first one or two are bound to be madhouse days. Then things will settle into a semblance of the ordinary. For weeks, the invisible hand will play the shell game of prosperity or want beside a now workman-like search for bodies, evidence, the excavation of rubble. For years, if we are fortunate enough to have them left to number, the business community will work beside the terrible void in the skyline.
It will take more than good fortune, but diligence with which the ordinary will never again be quite so ordinary. And that is where I take heart in the 65% figure. It is not, for example, the resounding and nearly entire bigotry that met Al Smith when he campaigned against Hoover beyond the North East.
As a city, New York is far from innocent. We have been slavers. We have preached, from cloistered vantages, against almost every religion and ethnicity. But we have also welcomed them—ourselves. And if that welcome has often been exploitative, so, too, has it often been heartfelt. Queens, where Helen lives, is the most ethnically diverse landscape in the world.
In the course of my lifetime I have witnessed how, from some of the crimes we, as a nation, have perpetrated, we have begun to acquire a new sense of justice. Had Maverick not subjected the statistic to a sleight of hand—that is, were it even an authentic figure concerning an out and out call to violence, I would still find reason to take some sort of comfort in it. It is not 95%. And if we have learned so much as to quiet the call for blood that much, perhaps not all hope is lost.