It is far too early to say, as a psychiatrist, how the "Attack on America" has altered the nation's psyche. But for Castaneda, at least, no one has said it better than F. Scott Fitzgerald, who, reflecting on Gatsby's failed attempt to reinvent himself, saw all of us as boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
New York City
When Dreams and Nightmares Collide
Judith Miller, a veteran New York Times correspondent, saw her frightening new book on biological warfare rocket to the top of national bestseller lists less than a week after she watched the World Trade Center disaster from 15 blocks away. She says she will never be able to relish her personal success with "Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War," though, "because it's just so fraught with the pain of living in a city that has suffered so much and feeling that pain myself day in and day out.
"This was my nightmare, that the kind of thing I covered in the Middle East, the kind of terrorism there, would one day come here."
Miller, who co-authored "Germs" with fellow reporters Stephen Engelberg and William J. Broad, wrote a three-part series about Osama bin Laden that her newspaper published in January. It warned of the possibility of a terrorist attack and described a bioweapons camp she visited in Jerusalem. "Nobody paid any attention," she says.
"Germs" is a history of biological weapons in both the Soviet Union and America and the people who played pivotal roles in their development and containment, as well as an account of the U.S. response to those weapons during the Clinton administration. Its original publication date was Oct. 2, but orders began pouring in after the terrorist attacks. By Sept. 15, the book had hit No. 1 on Amazon.com's bestseller list. The book already is in its fourth printing, totaling 140,000 copies.
But as she watched the twin towers crumble, a single name came to mind. "I instantly thought, 'This is them, this is Osama bin Laden and his merry bunch of boys, and I've got to get to the office.' [He] talks a lot about weapons of mass destruction and has consistently tried to get them. This brought home to me the essential task we have ahead of us as a society: We must stop him."
That single moment, she says, made "our theoretical warning in the book absolutely real."
New York City
A New Set of Navigational Points
There is a gaping wound in the New York skyline. And now New Yorkers see things they didn't see before.
When the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell, the skyline was blasted back almost a century. Suddenly, from a perch on a pier on the Hudson River, something else caught the eye--the Woolworth Building. Sixty stories erected in the early 20th century, it was "the highest building in the world" for decades. Now that it stands tall again, it serves as a reminder that skylines are organic-- plant juxtaposed against plant, a wild landscape in which things crop up to make a new composition, only to be superseded when more buildings appear.
It was at the turn of the century that New York first went vertical. Before that, ship masts and church spires defined the skyline. Then steel-framed construction and improved elevator design allowed tall office towers to be built. And, in 1913, up went the Woolworth, a handsome civic object that stood in lower Manhattan as a "cathedral of commerce." Later, more and more buildings soared higher and higher, so much artificial light and color against the sky that Swiss architect Le Corbusier described the financial district as "the Milky Way brought down to earth."
The towers were part of that galaxy, almost identical sentinels keeping watch over New York City and reminding people of its primacy as America's biggest and richest metropolis. Because they stood so much higher than anything else around them, the towers also became spectacular icons of American hubris: The piled-up office floors symbolized what is done simply because it can be done--and done large.
If they inspired people, it was mostly from afar. On a commuter train coming in from New Jersey, on a plane banking toward La Guardia Airport or on a cruise liner on the Hudson, the towers looked best at dusk or in the darkest of night.
Up close, the towers could be scary. Tourists craning their necks would get dizzy and sway; office workers swore they never looked up as they scurried to their elevators.
Most were not admirers of the twin towers: "A building not wonderful up close," said design critic Barbara Flanagan, "is probably not worth rebuilding." But even she saw how the towers dramatized the skyline as she floated last summer in a kayak on the Hudson River. During a 30-mile trip around the island of Manhattan, Flanagan and her compatriots were struck by how the towers seemed to float at the tip of the island.
"We did sit on the Hudson River looking at the World Trade Center towers in awe," she recalls. "When we were out on the water, they were a navigational point for us. And as we moved around, we watched them change, and it gave us a certain amount of scale."
Over time, New Yorkers will likely look up at the steepness of the city's other skyscrapers in an attempt to readjust their view. Certain structures will stand out: the Chrysler Building, an Art Deco masterpiece; the 102 stories of the Empire State Building, and the Citicorp building, known for the 45-degree slope of its roof. New Yorkers are swept up by such buildings, and they will right themselves by using these and other landmarks to establish a new and deepened view of their city.