I knew the events of Sept. 11 were big, but I didn't really realize how big until I read in the New York Times that fashion was – and I quote – "Taking a Back Seat To Unfolding Events."
The Times also had a moving piece on the trials of people who lived near Ground Zero having to beat a quick retreat to Manhattan's finer hotels: "[L]iving in a hotel – particularly a high-design hotel – can both speed and complicate a return to normalcy."
But insolent staff and high thread-count sheets are not the only suffering in Gotham. New York Times headlines could barely convey the unspeakable horror of it all: "Style: O Fashion, Where Art Thou?"; "New Look for Entertainment In a Terror-Conscious World;" "Refugees at the Ritz;" "After The Attacks: The Magazines – Editors Rush to Revise Long-Made Plans."
There were innumerable wartime sacrifices made by many ordinary New Yorkers. "By putting up a courageous front, fashionable businesses and institutions – even a single style arbiter – can provide a service during tough times." Designers planned to give women "freedom to dress as they want." (Get it?)
In another story from the frontlines, the Times somberly reported that Manhattanites were feeling an urgent need to "connect primally." Explaining that he "wanted something physical," Adam Lichtenstein, 36, a film editor offered more detail than readers necessarily needed about his recent one-night stand. "She is someone I very openly refer to as my wartime liaison," he said.
In addition to meaningless sex and courageous fashion design, there was a more controversial balm helping some New Yorkers through their grief. It could not be discussed frankly in pages of the Times. This questionable topic would require the utmost brevity and delicacy.
The rescue workers found a cross standing in the rubble of Ground Zero.
It was discovered just a few days after the attack. While performing the soul-numbing work of pulling human bodies and body parts from the smoking wreckage, construction worker Frank Silecchia happened upon a perfectly symmetrical cross in the midst of the wreckage. It was standing straight, 20-feet high, surrounded by many smaller crosses.
Silecchia stopped in his tracks and stood crying for 20 minutes. "When I first saw it, it took my heart," Silecchia said. "It helped me heal the burden of my despair, and gave me closure on the whole catastrophe."
Meanwhile, as a Times reporter recounted, other Manhattanites took refuge in belly dancers. "Finally the belly dancer came through, and maybe it was all that pressure that had built up this week, but when she beckoned, a lot of people at my table started running."
Hard hat Silecchia brought his fellow rescue workers to the site of the cross and they have been making regular pilgrimages to the cross ever since. Many of the men call it a miracle.
But for other New Yorkers, the Times reported: "Finding Solace Means Returning to Malls."
The daily horror of pulling human remains from the rubble has the rescue workers at the breaking point. Someone etched "God Bless Our Fallen Brothers" on the cross.
In other news, the Newspaper of Record reported, New Yorkers are part of a huge come-back in sewing! "People want to sew, create and get back to basics," one shop owner told the Times. Not only that, but some of the city's darkest fears turned out to be needless hysteria: "At the Plaza Hotel, a Fifth Avenue landmark, fears that the famed Oak Room and Oyster Bar will close have dissipated." Also, fast food is "moving well."
The cross at Ground Zero was not simply the cross beams remaining from an existing building. It was formed out of beams from Building One plunging, splitting and crashing into Building Six. "There's no symmetry to anything down there," the FBI chaplain said, "except those crosses."
In another weird coincidence, as the coping-through-belly-dancing article described, a lot of New Yorkers are having sex. A woman named Miriam offered this insight in the pages of the Times: "I also like watching porno and that sort of thing. And I think [my boyfriend] finds that freeing."
The Times eventually mentioned the cross at Ground Zero in one small item on page B-12 over three weeks after Silecchia found it.
A Franciscan priest, Father Brian Jordan, blessed the cross with Holy water in a ceremony attended by rescue workers, nuns and priests. Bagpipes played "Amazing Grace." The workers sang "God Bless America." It was arguably an even bigger event than Adam Lichtenstein's one-night stand.
The one-night stand article was 1,755 words. The coping through sex article was 2,655 words. The knitting article was 1,134 words. Even the article on solace in the malls was 752 words. The article on the cross was 423 words.
While the Times impatiently waits for the ACLU to put an end to all this monkey business with the cross, the rescue workers continue their work, pulling human remains from the wreckage and making the sign of the cross.