Like most of you, we have had violent mood swings this week, and have spent
time crying, raging, praying, and, above all, hoping.
We found ourselves thinking so much about New York, certainly about the pain
and the losses people suffered, but also about the city itself, the almost
mystical place it occupies in the imagination of America and the world.
You think about the Dutch and New Amsterdam, the civil war riots, the
waves of immigrants, the Germans, Italians, Poles, Jews, West Indians, Puerto
Ricans, Indians, everyone really.
In so many respects, New York is almost the metaphor of American freedom; so
many people have gone there and found freedom and happiness and a new start. And
so much genius has arisen from there. Really, it truly is like no where else in
Those of us who didn't grow up in the city were warned about it. It's
dangerous, they told us. The people are rude and thoughtless. It's not a very
Of course, they were wrong. It's dangerous like any place you don't know can
be dangerous. The people are possessed by their own culture and to some,
it appears rude, but it's not. And it is a beautiful city, urbane, witty,
As we found out this week, New York doesn't just have a heart, it has a
huge, tender heart, and New Yorkers are very skilled at covering that up.
Usually, that is.
The reality is that while New Yorkers periodically annoy some of the rest of
us with their cocksure behavior, and their abruptness and their certainty that
their city is better than anywhere else, well, as we all found out this week,
they are cocksure for a reason, they live at a faster pace than we do and don't
have time for the niceties some of the rest of us profess to value, and their
city is, in fact, the greatest city in the world. In their own perverse
way, by picking it as a target, the bastards acknowledged that.
And what happened, while it was incredibly wrenching, seeing New York in
grief, seeing the people of that great city shaken and weeping, in agony -
for those of us who grew up seeing New York in a distant light, not without a
touch of jealousy, how can we do anything but grieve for our secret love?
How can we bear to see that city, that magnificent set of contradictions,
In many ways, what is most endearing about New York is that in the
midst of the Depression, when life threatened to fall apart for all America, New
York whistled and sang. The music New Yorkers produced during the
Depression was happy. It gave hope to the rest of the nation. It was
a very difficult time, but the spirit of that place was constant and catholic in
the sense of being truly, purely American. The spirit of this nation was
captured by hardworking immigrants and their dreamy, romantic children, and they
gave us, really, the finest popular music in history. Elegant, sophisticated,
playful, and, above all, hopeful. Who else could spin gold out of such a
It was a magnificent gift they gave us, and such a fine gift that event today
those tunes are fresh, and wonderful, and drip with the romanticism that the
city gave the rest of us in a dark time, and during the War, that spirit again
shone across the country.
During the War, New York gave us the cheerful assimilationism of the Army -
every war movie has a Pole or Italian from Brooklyn. These people also
came from Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans - everywhere, really, but
we saw them as New Yorkers. In many ways, they are our metaphor for
That's part of the reason why, when we see such wrenching pain in that city,
it devastates us. We love the energy, the hum of the place, the happy race
between vitality and decadence. New York, you mean the world to us.
And so from the rest of us, believe this.
We will help bind your wounds. We will wait while your heartache heals. We
will visit, and we will pray for the lost and help to punish the wicked.
We saw, again, what you have told us in your music and movies and in every wink,
smile and teasing laugh - yes, you are a vast and complicated love, but you have
the purest heart of any city of which we are aware.
Now, we want to give back to you - to help you with what you need now, for
sustenance, for vital needs above all, but to show you we have learned from
you. To show you that we can reach beyond sorrow and heartbreak, and we
can in some dim way reflect and return the joy you have radiated for
decades, the willingness to open our arms, to give people a chance, to see a
greater world than the one we exist in from day to day.
In other words, you lugs, we're all New Yorkers now.