Like one's visceral memory of a car accident's moment of impact, the events of September 11 have become something we each return to, again and again. And though all wish that such disturbing recollections and feelings of sorrow and anxiety will fade, most still recognize that the terrorist attacks changed our lives in tangible and intangible ways. Those who lost a loved one are, of course, deeply affected, but even those unfamiliar with the victims are traumatized. The date has become an infamous, indelible marker in each lifetime, a partition between life before and life after. Some four weeks later, some residents of Port Washington took stock of how their lives have been altered by this unprecedented attack on America.
School counselors at Schreiber High School are reporting that some students are coming to see them more often; many are very anxious and some are relating strange dreams. Some speak of past traumas. Boys seem to be concerned about being drafted into military service. Ronni Smithline, director of guidance for the school district, indicated, from counselor feedback, that there's generally "more hysteria and tears," and when classes are interrupted for a PA announcement, students assume it is bad news. English Department Chairwoman Joan Lisecki found the halls more quiet than usual; students seemed more afraid, more stressed, and displayed heightened emotional responses. "Children have learned that they are not invincible and neither are adults," she surmised. Some middle school and elementary school students are having trouble sleeping, and fear for their parents' safety. Counselors and teachers are, of course, speaking in classrooms as well as meeting individually to help children.
But the situation is not all bleak. High school counselors have also reported to Mrs. Smithline that some students seem to have moved on from September 11, displaying resilience. Middle school staffers see students showing greater sensitivity to one another, and more united classrooms.
This too was the view from behind the counter at the Campus Deli, according to owner Henry Broder. "People are acting in a more compassionate way," he observed. "They seem to be friendlier...they have something in common, and there's a camaraderie." He was the recipient of an unusual act of kindness recently, and wondered whether it would have happened prior to Sept. 11. Having bought expensive paints at an arts shop, he drove home to find the paints were missing. He returned to the store, and scanning the parking lot, discovered the bag on the ground, the paints flattened and destroyed. Broder returned to the store, buying a second batch of paints. When the cashier saw him again, he inquired; Broder explained what had happened. The cashier told him to take the new paints, free of charge.
One of the sectors hardest hit by the terrorist attack is the travel industry, and local agencies are suffering. Elaine Lefcourt of Travel Port said that since the Sept. 11, "People have been canceling; they refuse to fly. Tickets are being returned left and right. Business has been at a standstill." Instead of flying, "more people are driving and taking Amtrack," she observed, saying she knows of one family who are planning to drive to Canada for a winter ski trip. Still, there's hope. Lefcourt said that domestic travel is "starting to come back a little," and planes flying to Florida, especially Disneyworld and Orlando, are full.
Of course, with a steep decline in tourism and travel, related industries are affected. A manager at the Millenium Broadway Hotel in midtown, Port resident Michael Miraglia, lost his job about one week after the tragedy. The corporate owners of the hotel also owned the Millenium Hilton, which was completely destroyed by the terrorist attacks. Several hundred people were let go, including Miraglia. "It was kind of a shock," he said. Miraglia, who has 25 years of experience in dry cleaning and uniform management, said he will probably return to the dry cleaning industry; he is currently looking into local opportunities.
For Port resident Steve Silberstein, the chief operating officer for a midtown money management firm, LIRR commuters seem subdued, but "are starting to come back." The first few weeks after the attack, "the vibrancy in the midtown area was gone," Silberstein observed, and the Wall Street area is still largely somber. Most people seem to walk with heads down, and not many smiles are evident, though it is completely understandable, he pointed out. "You cannot help but be affected," he commented. "There's a sadness..." Still, people seem mellower, and a bit nicer. "You are thankful for the little things in life," Silberstein said.
From a law enforcement perspective, "even in a nice town like PW, you can't be too aware," said PW Police Chief Kilfoil. "All officers are more aware and more cautious than usual." As has been said, "Our way of life changed on September 11," the Chief reiterated. "You can't assume complete safety anymore."