By Ed Griffin-Nolan
It was the quiet that revealed most about New Yorkers. Sitting in traffic on the West Side highway, creeping toward lower Manhattan three weeks after the attacks, I was struck by the absence of horns blaring. A reverential silence was universally observed, unplanned.
Much has been made of the heroism of those who ran into the buildings to save lives, and their sacrifice cannot be lauded enough. Those cops and firemen were a well-trained force of thousands.
The city is made of a typically unruly mob of millions, who pride themselves on expressing their individuality, usually at a higher decibel level than required.
And for weeks they crept around the boroughs in cars and taxis rendered mute by horror, stalked by the smoking reminder that there are things more important than getting to wherever you have to go quicker than the other guy. It was quiet.
Six weeks after Sept. 11, I stood with family in a parking lot outside a Catholic church on Staten Island. The clan had gathered in honor of our cousin who, we finally admitted, would never be found. The number of funerals was so large that we had to wait for the previous family to conclude their service and file out of the church before we could enter. When we concluded the Mass, we walked down the steps of the church under the silent gaze of the next grieving family.
All was conducted in silence. Words could not accomplish much at that time.
Those silences communicated an understanding of a shared fate. Ten years later, the city that never sleeps has gone back to its boisterous ways in many respects. But something of that understanding seems to remain. Those weeks and months of relative quiet have changed us for good.