10 Sep 2011

New Yorkers aren’t fazed by the terror scare. But they do hate the extra traffic…

I was a block from Wall Street and I saw a man wrestle with his steering wheel as if it was a raging bull. He banged on the horn, screaming obscenities.

In the next street a rhino-sized cop with de rigeur dark aviator specs was shouting at a bird-sized granny crossing the street with her gnarling chihuahua when the pedestrian light was still red.

Had New York lost its cool? You bet. A case of 9/11 nerves rubbed raw by the latest terror alert? No.

Even on a Friday, the city that never sleeps barely ever smiles. This place doesnt get fazed by terrorist chatter about possible attacks, overheard by the world’s spooks.

Even if they are a little queasy, no self-respecting New Yorker would ever admit as much to an alien reporter. But they do hate the gridlock created by the alerts.

And so do I. It took us almost two hours to travel the usual 30 minutes from LaGuardia airport to lower Manhattan. The Brooklyn bridge was a parking lot. Every truck eventually belched out by one of the city’s tunnels was immediately searched by the cops.

Fair enough. Three presidents will converge on Ground Zero on Sunday. Swat teams are already  in place. A warship, containing steal from the fallen towers in its hull, is parked on the Hudson River.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda number two promoted to number one by Bin Laden’s death wanted to use the anniversary to make his mark of leadership on the fractious, diminished organisation he now heads.

 I hope not. From my hotel room on the 38th floor I peer straight down to the construction site that was Ground Zero.

Number One World Trade Center is rising like an elegant souffle out of the ground. They add one floor a week as the upper levels begin to taper closer together to form a 104-floor needle in the sky.

The two reflector ponds with their water falls and the names of the dead are a beautiful and simple monument on the footprint of the vanished towers. Once the whole World Trade Center site has been completed it will be a stunning piazza at the heart of Lower Manhattan.

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