Looking on the bright side

I was sure I had something worth saying about yesterday. But every time I tried I became so sad and angry I couldn’t get anywhere.

So today I’m going to use a gambit I call “looking on the bright side,” and make a list of all the positive things I can remember about fall, 2001.

• By noon on September 11, there was a line a block long outside the hospital near my apartment of people wanting to give blood. Eventually most hospitals in Manhattan started turning everyone away because they had all the blood they could conceivably need. (And this was at a time when they believed they’d have thousands of people wounded, rather than the handful there turned out to be.)

• By 3 p.m. I had email from two friends who’d begun organizing groups of New York non-Muslims to reach out to frightened local Muslims. This turned out to be less necessary than they anticipated, because New Yorkers generally were at the highest level of behavior I’ve ever witnessed in human beings. Still, there were lots of Muslim women who wore hijabs and were scared to go out unaccompanied, and it was useful to find people who could escort them to the grocery store, etc.

I’ve never loved a place more than I loved New York that month. There were lots of people in the rest of the U.S. baying for blood, but I never heard that expressed by a single New Yorker.

• For several days it felt like we must never laugh again. Fortunately that soon dissipated. The first joke I made was when I told Chadd Gindin that the World Trade Center should be rebuilt to look like a giant hand giving Osama bin Laden the finger. This clearly was on the minds of lots of people, as within a week someone had photoshopped this:

• On September 13th, Jerry Falwell learnedly explained:

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians…the A.C.L.U., People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, “You helped this happen.”

I’m not kidding when I say I seriously considered driving to Lynchburg, Virginia and smashing Falwell in the face with a crowbar. Thankfully Mike Gerber and I were able to transmute any anger into one of my favorite pieces we’ve ever written, “What Falwell Really Meant”. It also got the most galvanic audience reaction we’ve ever received.

• Soon afterward Rob Weisberg came up with the idea of a pamphlet from the New York City tourism board, directed to terrorists, describing the many appealing vulnerabilities of America’s other cities. Mike and I wrote this and sent it to friends, who were so horrified it’s never seen the light of day. Still, I’ve rarely laughed harder than when we were working on it.

• Several months later, there were actual ads encouraging tourists to come back, starring various New York celebrities.

This allowed me to, for the only time in my life, feel affection for Henry Kissinger. I believe the Buddha would have approved.