By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
The stranded passengers have been cordoned into one quadrant of the balcony. Women in smart red vests patrol the human tangle like cheerful sheepdogs. At odd intervals, one of the herders raises a cell phone to signal an incoming call from a concerned relative. A man passes out water in plastic cups. The day weighs heavily; the passengers slump together against mattresses of suitcases and improvised pillows of garbage bags. A sweating man in a rumpled warm-up suit stands vigil in front of a bank of terminals, staring blankly at nonexistent arrivals and departures.
Another section of the balcony has been appropriated by TV news crews, who stand idly in cocoons of blinding white light and nests of cable. Every so often a curious passenger saunters over to inspect the crews' equipment. A reporter pokes a microphone in the direction of the passenger, who responds with an uncomprehending shrug and walks away.
"I am still full of wondering," Jung says. "I called my sister and boyfriend first. They were very nervous. They told me about a crash or an accident. It's unbelievable to me, because Washington is the capital of the globe. How can airplanes crash here? How can this happen here with no protection? I have worries whether I can go there tomorrow or not."
After a while, Jung and her fellow travelers are herded downstairs by the red-vested women, outside the terminal, to where a bus is idling. Like many today, their destination is uncertain. They wait beneath silent skies.
AT 10:30 P.M. TUESDAY ON THOMAS Avenue in St. Paul, the line at the gas station two blocks away is backed up nearly to the front door of Willard's Liquors. Unfortunately for those who are waiting, the pumps close in 30 minutes. Most will leave without a drop of gas.
Inside Willard's it's almost possible to pretend this is just another weeknight of cold beer and idle conversation. R&B tunes pump from the jukebox, would-be millionaires scratch off lottery tickets, and most of the action swirls around the coin-operated pool table. The TV sets are the only giveaway: a seemingly endless loop of airplanes crashing, people screaming, buildings crumbling, flashing across the multiple screens. The volume is too low to hear. No one pays the carnage any mind.
A heavyset woman with a bottle of Bud in front of her announces to a trio of friends that some gas stations are charging four or five dollars a gallon. "That's too much; too damn much," she moans, shaking her head. "Gonna cost $50 just to fill up your damn gas tank." Just before 11:00, a skinny twentysomething fellow with braids and baggy denim shorts that bear a likeness of Fat Albert on the back pocket swaggers in with his girlfriend. "People gonna be boxing at the gas tanks tonight!" he declares, laughing. "It is crazy."
THE BOXERS AT THE CIRCLE of Discipline gym in south Minneapolis have just finished their afternoon workout, and five of the young fighters mill about on the sidewalk, half a block south of Lake Street. One image is stuck in Wilton Hilario's head, 56 hours after the World Trade Center was obliterated. "Seeing those people jump. I go to bed and I can't stop thinking about it," says Hilario, a bone-thin 18-year-old who moved to the Twin Cities from Puerto Rico three years ago.
Hilario learned about the calamity at El Colegio, the Spanish-language charter school he attends. "It's all we talked about, all day. All anybody talked about." At first, he says, he was worried about his father, who lives in New York. "He works in a mini-market. But my mom talked to him, so I know he's okay," he says softly.
Twenty-one-year-old Ray Gomez grew up in Manhattan--153rd and Broadway--and he's got worries too. "It's different when you're from New York. I talked to family. I know they're all right. But I've got so many friends in the city and I don't know their status. It's going to be awhile."
Gomez has been watching television for the past few days--something, he says, he rarely does. "To tell the truth, I don't really trust all the information that's coming out," he muses. "Maybe they are just saying things to keep us calm." He says he's unimpressed by President Bush's performance: "A person in power should be better spoken. We're looking for answers," he goes on. "But to me, it doesn't seem like there is a solution. How can you explain it? What can you do?"
When a third fighter ventures that "Arabians" ought to be forbidden from taking flight instruction, Gomez furrows his brow. "You can't do that," he says flatly. "You can't stop people from learning something because they come from a certain ethnic background."
IT IS AN INCONGRUOUSLY PLEASANT evening outside the Karmel Square mall, just north of the intersection of East Lake Street and Pillsbury Avenue in Minneapolis. The first hint of fall is in the air. The fading sun casts long shadows across the street; the sky is impossibly blue. A few dozen people--mostly young Somali men, a few Somali women--loiter in small groups on the sidewalk in front of the modest array of Somali-run shops and restaurants, laughing and smiling in an easy, end-of-the-workday manner.