Everyday Bravery

On Saturday some wingnut left an SUV packed with explosives parked in Times Square. Fortunately, an alert street vendor noticed that smoke was coming out of the car and warned a mounted cop, who immediately evacuated the area and called in plenty of support. The NYPD rushed in and defused the SUV-bomb.

Let’s ignore the fact that the bomber is so stupid he must have never watched a single episode of CSI or NCIS or Law & Order — if he had, he would realize that there’s no way you can convert a vehicle into a bomb and not leave some kind of trace evidence like fingerprints or hair or almost-invisible skin cells. Not to mention all the traffic cams and security cams in the Times Square area. Smile, you’re on Candid Camera. Idiot.

But this particular bomber’s moronic tendencies aren’t really what I wanted to talk about. And much as I admire the alertness of the vendor, and the skill and bravery of the NYPD in handling the situation, they aren’t today’s topic of discussion either.

No, today we’re talking about everyday bravery. The kind you see in the streets of New York every day. The kind that you saw on people’s faces on the afternoon of 9/11. I was lucky enough to be in Manhattan that day — and I say lucky because I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else after that horrible morning. I walked 40 blocks downtown from my office to my wife’s. In that walk, I saw lots of stunned people. But there wasn’t a trace of defeat on a single person’s face. I also saw numerous acts of kindness, as people talked to each other about the best way to get from one place to another without buses or cabs, without subways. To me, one of the amazing demonstrations of New York’s toughness that day was the subways — they were running again within hours, despite the physical destruction of one of the major subway hubs under the World Trade Center.

A couple of days later, as I was riding the suburban train line to work, I realized I was surrounded by heroes. In the first few days of the 9/11 aftermath, the trains were awfully quiet. But they were full. Almost everyone, frightened and shocked though they were, went back to work. That’s heroism — carrying on with your life when you’d really rather hole up at home with a pint of ice cream and a movie. Or a pint of liquid strength and ESPN.

Today, Monday, two days after New York’s most recent brush with terrorism, the same thing will happen. Almost all New Yorkers will know about the whack-job with the SUV. And they’ll all go about their business as usual.

New York, New York, it’s a helluva town.

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