Los Angeles and New York are so closely linked that it's said when
New York catches a cold, LA sneezes. So when Gotham was shaken to its
core, the shudder felt out here was far more cataclysmic than the
earthquake that had struck the previous Sunday.
Most of the West Coast was still asleep when the shocking sight of a jet
splitting the World Trade Center joined images of Neal Armstrong's walk
on the moon, the Challenger disaster, and JFK Jr.'s salute to his
father's casket as the most indelible in post-war American history. It
was a spectacle far more horrifying than anything any Hollywood producer
Producers conceived of nothing in the aftermath, as the entertainment
industry ground to a complete halt. The Latin Grammys were scrubbed, the
Emmys and a Madonna concert were postponed, studios and agencies closed,
new fall TV lineups were delayed, and the Toronto Film Festival, which
had its wind taken from it, limped to its weekend conclusion.
It seemed of little importance. In a town that lives by ratings, numbers
suddenly gained a more profound meaning: 5,000 souls lost. True heroes
displaced Hollywood's manufactured ones. In our nation's darkest moment,
we saw heroic firemen and policemen sacrificing their lives. Doctors,
nurses, and paramedics working around the clock. Volunteers digging
through rubble on their hands and knees because the faintest of hopes
tells them someone may be breathing underneath.
As the dust and shock of the first day began to settle, Hollywood, too,
stepped in to lend a hand. Studios and networks made significant
donations. Entertainers spoke publicly about the crisis, creating a
catharsis in the way that admired and recognized figures so effectively
can. Benefit performances were staged or planned. And, as always, movie
theaters provided a few hours escape for people who had been living a
nightmare for the past week.
The media can make a greater contribution by dousing the fires of ethnic
hatred that are likely to spread across the US. Sporadic acts of
violence have already occurred against innocent people whose only crime
was being possessed of Middle Eastern features. There are millions of
patriotic Americans who, because of their appearance, will now feel
burning looks of suspicion, distrust, and anger in the backs of their
heads. Should we succumb to such prejudice, the terrorists would have
succeeded in striking a blow in the most vital place of all: our
Blessedly for now, the heart of New York remains uplifted by the courage
and compassion of the people who live in its boundaries, or just in its
glow. On Tuesday, September 11, the great city was knocked down. The
next day she stood up, and the rest of the country, and much of the
world, stands with her.