Looking Back: The Voice on 9/11


The September 11, 2001 issue of the Village Voice was delayed so that some relevant material could be inserted. Alisa Solomon, who had spent much of the previous month in Israel, where terror bombings were more common, gave a firsthand report on the World Trade Center attacks. She had been downtown for jury duty when the planes hit. “We could see some small figures — something orange, something flapping white — hanging off the building,” she wrote. “Could they be people? The crowd let out a high-pitched primal squeal…”

In the following issue our now-famous cover ran, along with more stories related to the event.

Tom Robbins and Jennifer Gonnerman contributed “City of Ghosts”: “‘First, this tremendous wind. Then it was like you put your hand inside a sand castle; it just crumbled,’ said Felix Sanchez, 46, who, with two dozen coworkers, ran 30 blocks to the site to help… It was so rock solid then: A pair of 1350-foot-tall monuments visible on clear days from Bear Mountain in the north to Sandy Hook in the south. They were a guide and compass for anyone lost in the city. They were the gargantuan presence against which all large things were measured…

“Turn back the clock, omit those dreadful minutes, and what would everyone be doing? What would be happening in these towers and streets minus the deadly debris, crushing rubble, and the bleak gray carpet?”

Erik Baard filed from Queens: “In one of three Arab-run delis in Queensboro Plaza, a Latino boy of maybe 10 years enjoyed grilling the nervous thirtyish man behind the counter… ‘Are you an Arab?’ ‘No, I’m a Gypsy.’ ‘You’re an Arab.’ ‘No, I’m a Gypsy.’ ‘No you’re not, you’re an Arab.’ ‘I am a Gypsy. Next person?'”

Laura Conaway visited downtown hospitals, where people were putting up pictures of their missing loved ones with contact numbers. “‘The later it gets, they know something’s definitely wrong,'” [an EMS worker] says. ‘But anything’s possible. They’re still pulling people out of there alive.'”

James Ridgeway wrote one of the first published criticisms of the Bush Administration’s handling of national security: “What are the protectors of our national security doing these days? Erecting a $2 million fence in Washington to protect the IMF and World Bank meetings from a bunch of kids, who the cops claim are terrorists in the making. The president and his advisors have spent months talking about the need to invest in a whopper system for missile defense, only to stand helpless before the threat from a handful of hijacked commercial flights. They need to get real. This is not leadership.”

Over the week that followed, the Voice received many letters about the issue — as well as condolences from non-New Yorkers to the city at large. “To all New Yorkers: We love every one of you, from CEOs to dumpster divers,” wrote Ken Rich of Vancouver. “You always show the world what citizenship is about. May God bless all of you.”