Where's Ernie Pyle? Where's A.J. Liebling? Where's the guy in the khaki flak-jacket with buttons on his pockets, going where all other reporters fear to venture, bringing us human-interest prose that gnaws at our conscience?
The line forms at sunrise. If you arrive at 26 Federal Plaza after 6:30, you're already too late. The building doesn't open until 8 a.m., but the queue already contains a hundred people, and there are several hundred more likely to arrive before the security door opens.
It's not like Pearl Harbor at all. It's like the Pequot War.
Since everyone's looking for the apt historical parallel--a vicious attack on civilians by tribal warriors, followed by swift uncompromising retribution by a modern army--we should look not to Hawaii in 1941 but to southwestern Connecticut in 1634.
In 1950s thrillers, there's always a terrifying moment when the "chief inspector" boards the night train to Munich, scans the faces of the huddled passengers, and picks one out with the words, "May I see your documents please?" (Try it with a thick Teutonic accent and arched eyebrows.)
I'm riding the Ghost Train on my way to examine the rubble.
By 11 p.m. the subways of New York are disturbingly quiet and vacant. Empty cars. A person here and there who needs to get on or off the island of Manhattan.
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