September 11, 2002
By JANNY SCOTT and MARJORIE CONNELLY
it is willful ignorance, some suggest. Maybe it is the conviction that
living in fear is no way to live. But one year after the attack on the
World Trade Center, nearly half of all New York City residents say the
event has not changed their lives.
Those New Yorkers may find themselves thinking about it far more
often than they would have imagined. They may even become teary-eyed at
the memory. But most have lost no sleep, they feel comfortable in
skyscrapers and they travel by subway. They say their daily routines are
"I love the city, and I'm not about to hunker down in my
apartment and not go anywhere," said Rebecca Press Schwartz, a
26-year-old graduate student and parent who was one of 1,008 adult New
Yorkers questioned in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll. "And I
honestly don't know that that would make a difference."
"If there isn't another terrorist attack, then we're all
fine," Ms. Schwartz, who lives in Washington Heights, added in an
interview after the poll. "And if they smuggle a suitcase-size
nuclear weapon into Manhattan, then we're all dead. Either way, I don't
see much to be gained by sitting around in fear."
In the poll, conducted by telephone from Aug.
25 to 29, 48 percent of the people questioned said their lives had not
changed as a result of Sept. 11. Seventy percent said their routines had
returned to normal. Most said they no longer felt nervous or edgy, if
they ever had, while about a quarter acknowledged that they remain
anxious. Most said they had done nothing different in response to
government warnings of possible new attacks.
Which is not to suggest that lives have not been touched. Sixty-one
percent of those polled said that they or one of their friends knew
someone who had been hurt or killed. Forty-seven percent said their
lives had changed; they cited a wide variety of experiences, including
the loss of jobs and income, feelings of fearfulness and a sense of new
perspectives on life and a new closeness with neighbors.
While 11 percent called terrorism their biggest concern about living
in the city, more than twice that many cited financial worries caused by
things like the high cost of living, high rents and the economy. Among
parents, 75 percent said their children had never been awakened by
post-9/11 nightmares; half said theirs had never expressed concern about
their own safety or that of anyone in the family.
C. R. Snyder, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of
Kansas who specializes in the study of human motivation, hope, stress
and coping, said the findings were consistent with some of his own. His
observations of behavior after other traumatic events, he said, show
that most people are remarkably resilient — something he attributes
not to denial but to hope.
"It's not that these people don't realize the depth of the
tragedy and what's happened," he said in an interview. "But
they realize that they have a life to live and that other people depend
on them, and that there's a better use of their time than worrying about
things that in all likelihood they can't control."
The poll, which had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3
percentage points, found that 62 percent of New Yorkers described
themselves as very concerned about another attack on the city, down from
74 percent in a poll last October. Only 35 percent said they felt safe.
One in three reported thinking about Sept. 11 daily; one in five had
talked about it weekly. Of those who had thought or talked about it,
most said they became choked up at least some of the time.
Tony DiTomasso, a 49-year-old paramedic for New York Presbyterian
Hospital, said two of his colleagues were killed at the World Trade
Center that day. "I sometimes wonder what the heck made me
different from those guys," he said in a follow-up interview.
"And a woman parked in an ambulance next to mine: she's dead. What
caused me to zig and her to zag?
"I still don't sleep well occasionally — like last night, I
woke up every half-hour. I'll look at everything every now and then,
remembering the buildings coming down, and I feel it in my gut.
Sometimes I'll get a pang in my heart, like when I miss the two guys
that died. So whenever I'm at work, I'm still dealing with what
For those less directly affected, life returned to normal more
quickly. Nathan Berman, 80, a retired school principal and teacher who
watched the smoke from the trade center billow up the East River toward
his home on Roosevelt Island, said his everyday life had continued to be
consumed by his family, his community and his work.
"It's a horrible, horrible thing," he said of Sept. 11.
"But for someone who was in the Battle of the Bulge, it's not the
end of the world."
Mike Davies, 56, an unemployed computer scientist who lives in
Jackson Heights, Queens, said he flew to London the week after Sept. 11
and has deliberately adhered to his daily routine at home. The attack is
a fait accompli, he said; nothing can be done about it. He conceded that
perhaps he is blocking the memory out — an observation others made
"It makes it easier to go about my everyday life if I don't
think about it," Ms. Schwartz said. "But it may also be that
with terrorism, or the fears of terrorism, the danger is so diffuse.
Maybe the fact that New York was struck once means it's a prominent
target, but maybe it means that next time they'll strike somewhere
Thirty-three percent of those polled said they thought New York City
would be a better place to live in 15 years — down from 54 percent in
October, but higher than the percentages in polls in the 1980's and
1990's. Twenty-three percent predicted that New York would be worse, up
from 11 percent last fall but less than in earlier decades. Thirty-eight
percent said it would be the same.
While New Yorkers remained fairly confident that the city's economy
will recover from the effects of the attacks, those who said they were
very confident dropped to 36 percent, down from 48 percent in June.
Forty-nine percent said they believed the threat of terrorism was
greater in New York than in other cities, down from 60 percent of people
polled in June.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the attitudes of New Yorkers differ
noticeably from those of people elsewhere in the country who were
questioned as part of another New York Times/CBS News poll made public
Sunday. For example, 47 percent of New Yorkers said they approved of the
way President George W. Bush is handling his job, compared with 63
percent of people polled nationwide.
Fifty-seven percent of people nationally, compared with 48 percent of
New Yorkers, said their life had not changed as a result of Sept. 11.