By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
In a very real sense, here at City Pages we seldom stray far from home. We're a local paper; we cover local news and the local arts scene--a sufficiently rich vein to mine for stories. You might say last tuesday's horrifying attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., were anything but local. We don't see it that way, though.
We spent that day the way we suspect most of you did: Watching television, listening to the radio, trolling the internet. Numbed, terrified, riveted. We tried to connect with loved ones and friends who were far too close to the devastation for comfort. (To our great relief, we learned that our colleagues at the Village Voice are fine--though understandably shaken.)
As the events unrelentingly unfolded, our journalistic curiosity got the better of us. We began to wonder how the rest of the Twin Cities was absorbing this blow. The best way to discover that, we figured, was to go out and start asking. So we did. Here's what we learned.
MEDHAT FESHIR GAMELY GREETS A customer at the Uptown Express in Minneapolis's Calhoun Square, throws a slice of pepperoni in the oven, and jerks a soda. All the while, the Egyptian native keeps an eye on a boxy television in the rear of the room. All immigrants tune to CNN, the 45-year-old declares. As the pepperoni starts to bubble at 6:00 p.m. on this infamous Tuesday, the World Trade Center turns to dust again and again.
"It's crazy," Feshir stammers. "I'm against this violence, any violence, anytime, anywhere. It does not solve anything. It solves what? Nothing!"
Feshir pats his brow and tends to the pizza. All day long, he has sensed the suspicion in his customers' eyes. "I hope everyone understands that very few people feel this way," he says, referring to the terrorists. "Too many people misunderstand and overgeneralize. [Whether it is in] the U.S., Europe, Asia, my home, or any country, I hate to hear about anyone dying. It just makes me sad. All these innocent people..." His voice trails off. "Any people who have a brain would not do this."
Apologizing for his broken English, Feshir explains that he came to the United States in 1996 to work at Uptown Express. But his first stop was New York City, where he took his wife and three children to the top of the World Trade Center. "Today I do not care about countries. I do not care about government. I only care about people who die. I look at that tower; now it is nothing. And I remember that day we came to America, and I keep thinking: We were there. That could have been us."
"THANK YOU FOR NOT SMOKING," the voice says over and over. It's a quarter past six, and nothing is moving: The ticket counters have been abandoned, security checkpoints stand unguarded, a brightly lighted magazine kiosk is deserted, the Muzak playing over the PA system sounds obscenely loud. The sense of emptiness on the cathedral-like concourse is palpable and unnerving. It's not simply that no one's here, it's that no one's here in a place where people ought to be, moving, talking, complaining. It's the sense of
absence. In place of the scuff of shoes on tile
and the hum of conversation, there's only the dull buzz of the air conditioning and the looped, cheerful voice, welcoming no one and thanking them for not smoking.
One floor below, there's scant sign of activity. The baggage carousels have all stopped. An elderly gentleman in a blue blazer manning an information desk has allowed his chin to sink into the apex of his propped-up elbows. He looks left-behind, like the man in science-fiction stories who's uselessly spared when the rest of humanity vanishes. In one corner of the baggage-claim area, a group of a dozen pilots and gray-jumpsuited ground-crew members are gathered around a television set that's playing a looped image of an airliner slicing through the side of a World Trade Center Tower as though it were diving into water. They've been here for ages, but there's no point in being anyplace else. Time is out of joint. The television's volume is off. No one is talking. Walking by, you might miss them.
After a few minutes, another off-duty employee hurries past on his way out, holding a small yellow-haired girl by the hand. As they pass the television watchers, the girl slips her father's grasp and jolts toward the silent group. "That's where the accident is," she says, pointing to the television screen. She doesn't register.
Two floors up, on a balcony overlooking the fluorescent-light-flooded ticketing area, about three dozen travelers, stranded en route from Seoul to Washington, D.C., wait. They too have been here for hours, and they have no idea when they'll be allowed to leave. Jung Tae Jin, a 26-year-old on her way to visit her sister and deliver a gift to her newborn niece, hasn't seen a television or newspaper yet, and unlike most of the rest of the planet, has only the sketchiest grasp of what has happened today. "On the plane, the captain said there was an accident and we should stay here tonight. I can't believe it at first. I am full of complaints."