From: Randy Schwartz
Subject: Re: David Greising Column
Date: Thu, Oct 4, 2001, 1:18 AM
Like you, I was offended by David Greising's glib characterizations of New York and the blithe tone he used to portray the city today ("As pickpockets grabbed for wallets, I half expected them to say, "Pardon me.""). I'm tired of hearing backhanded sympathies woven into pre-fabricated observations that pigeonhole the alleged spirit of our city as one of survival and an all-pervasive anxiety. This was an immensely important opportunity for Mr. Greising to convey our palpable sense of sorrow and comradery. For this to be the column he submitted, with all his first-hand observation, is absurd. He could've written the same column from his cubicle 600 miles away in Chicago; that such an opportunity could be so wasted only saddens me.
People clearly see what they want to see, and all too eagerly buy into such tired characterizations of our city. Even New Yorkers take pride in the colorful stereotypes, they're funny, but after hearing converted New Yorkers like Conan O' Brien mention in his most sincere expression of sympathy and desperation how he grew up "fearing and frankly despising" New York, I can't help but wonder if there aren't millions of people in the heartland thinking a tragedy like this only could've happened in a city like New York. Columns that draw lines of connection between such a random tragedy and the inherent tone and make-up of New York belittles our trauma and trivializes the ripple effects we'll feel for decades to come. Mr. Greising should be striving to make New York and its people more accessible, not less. The social graces visitors see on the streets of New York have certainly been amplified by circumstances, but people need to hear about the way things really were, and the fact that such courtesies have always been offered and expressed on a regular basis.
I read your letter and think you got it just right, by speaking of the way things were, and in turn the way things will always be. My friend Allison Choy forwarded me your response, which is actually the real reason I'm writing you (I'm sure you're wondering). Three weeks ago she was shell-shocked in a way that only first-hand witnesses down at Ground Zero could have been. I know you took her in off the streets, and offered her and other strangers both kindness and inclusion. I'm proud and grateful that NYC is exactly the kind of community depicted in your response. Thanks for being such a consummate New Yorker!
Greenwich Village, NYC