Our City Will Never Surrender
Tales from the streets of New York
By Kim Serafin | Bio

There’s a parade going on outside my apartment in New York City right now.

At least a hundred people wearing t-shirts and shorts are flanking the streets, waving American flags.

Garbage cans are overflowing with Coke cans and Evian water bottles.  Little Italian sidewalk cafes are buzzing with people and their dogs. Dozens of other people are lined up on the roofs of buildings, peering out their apartment windows and crowding on their balconies.

Of course, this is not a parade to celebrate anything. In fact it’s not a real parade at all. There are no floats. No costumes. No marching bands.

Instead of confetti, the street is littered with mini-pamphlets that say, "Are You Good Enough to go to Heaven?"

Instead of music, the only noises in the air are sirens and the hourly roar of a fighter plane.

Instead of festive hats, the majority of the crowd is wearing masks – the white disposable ones that cover their noses and mouths, not the Halloween kind – trying to shield themselves from breathing in the asbestos particles.

And instead of the comforting smell of a New York parade – hot pretzels and sugar roasted peanuts – there is the only a growing stench of smoke and dust.

However, the sentiment of the gathering is clear. People of all ages are bonding together to show their support for each other, for New York and for America.

I live about 15 blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood; my street is the closest most civilians can get to the tragedy. Like several other intersections in New York City, it’s become a de-facto meeting place for New Yorkers and tourists alike. Not just for the clear view down Sixth Avenue, but for the comfort of being around other human beings.

The congregation started yesterday, after the events surrounding the World Trade Center attack It’s been a mix of people standing there – young and old, and comprised of all races – trying to bond and put some meaning to what happened.

There was no cheering on Tuesday. Only screams when the first tower, and then the second, both crumbled to the ground, and then silence.

But now there is a new spirit in the air. News reports of death and devastation continued, but there was a renewed confidence in America’s fate. When over 40 construction trucks and plows arrived from New Jersey and drove down my block, the crowd swelled to applaud their help. When Army jeeps showed up, driving downtown into the smoke, people gave them the ‘thumbs-up’ sign. And when fire trucks and ambulances, covered with soot and ash, appeared through the smoky streets, we cheered, shouted ‘thank you!’ and waved our flags wildly.

It’s the same spirit our elected leaders are encouraging.

President Bush said, "These acts shattered steel but they can not shatter the steel of American resolve."

Yesterday Mayor Giuliani said, "New York is going to be here. And we’re going to rebuild. And we’re going to be stronger than we were before."

In front of the fire department on my corner, at Houston and Sixth Avenue, there is a makeshift alter. Candles are scattered on the street and photos and notes are posted on lampposts and trees. But the photos are not of people. The pictures are snapshots and postcards of New York City’s skyline. The messages, little notes of hope and defiance say things like:

"I love you, New York."

"New York – I’ve never needed you more. Hang in there"

"New York: You can pull through this. You can withstand anything."

"If anyone thinks they can beat New York…. They can’t. We will not be silenced."

They’re all right.

New Yorkers do not surrender to this type of terrorism and Americans are not bullied this easily.

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