Politicians urge return to normal

Glendening, colleagues visit New York, District, hoping others will follow

OK to travel, shop, they say

October 01, 2001|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

NEW YORK - Gov. Parris N. Glendening and several of his colleagues arrived here yesterday to shop, dine, take in a Broadway show and send a message to the nation: "Our message here is that though people are still grieving, we've got to get back to normal. It's OK to go shopping. It's OK to go to a show," Glendening said.

"I think the country is in sort of a psychological funk. Unless we get the economy going again, [Osama] bin Laden will have won," Glendening said, referring to the suspected mastermind of the terrorist attacks Sept. 11.

Joining Glendening for a whirlwind tour of New York City were Govs. Paul E. Patton of Kentucky, a Democrat; Don Sundquist of Tennessee, a Republican; Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, a Republican; Ronnie Musgrove of Mississippi, a Democrat; and Mayor Anthony A. Williams of Washington.

They dined at Sardi's, shopped at Macy's and went to The Lion King. It was a day of sobering contrasts. Glendening, who visits the city about six times a year, noted the strange sensation of flying over lower Manhattan, looking down and seeing rubble where the World Trade Center towers once stood.

"I thought I would be so prepared for it, but you really get choked up," he said. "When you actually see it, it really hits you."

The governors hoped that by boarding jetliners, visiting New York and spending money, they would encourage their constituents to do the same.

Economic downturn

The nation's economy has been in a decline since the attacks. Consumer confidence has slumped, leaving few sectors of the economy untouched. Thousands face unemployment. The airline industry is expecting to lay off 100,000 employees. Glendening said about 40 percent of those employed at the still-closed Reagan National Airport in suburban Washington are from Maryland.

Williams said his city depends on the 25 million tourists who visit each year. He said he can't afford to lose them and neither can New York, which has been especially hard hit. The city's theater community recently launched an advertising campaign to boost tourism. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has also made a plea. His words encouraging people to come back to New York are written on a billboard in Times Square.

The governors purposely avoided a visit to the World Trade Center site. Glendening said their intent was to send an upbeat message.

Still, they could not overlook the events that shook this city. Lunch at the Carnegie Deli was followed by a trip to the Lower East Side, home of Ladder 3, Battalion 6 of the New York Fire Department.

The unit was one of the first companies in the second wave of fire-rescue crews that rushed to the World Trade Center. Like many of the city's fire stations, Ladder 3's home on 13th Street near Third Avenue has become a memorial. People have left thank-you notes, flowers, candles, food, aspirin. The governors brought roses.

Before the attacks, the station had lost five men since 1894. The last fatality was in 1930. By midday Sept. 11, a dozen of the unit's 25 men - three officers and nine firefighters - would be among the missing. Their truck was demolished in the collapse. They salvaged the sign. It sits on a shelf, still covered with gray dust.

"Certainly, being here in the fire station, all of us feel a sense of grief and a sense of loss," Williams said. "This is just a tremendous loss."

In all, the New York Fire Department has lost more than 300 officers and firefighters. Stephen Allen, a retired firefighter from Prince George's County, said he could barely comprehend the enormity of that loss.

Allen and several other Maryland firefighters have been helping out in New York since the day of the attacks. Some were scheduled to leave today for Maryland, though others were going to stay until Oct. 10.

"I don't know how a department of any size can take a hit like that," Allen said. "It really struck the family hard. ... It was rewarding to come up and help the family."

In all, Battalion 6, which has 125 firefighters and officers when fully staffed, lost 23 men. The photos of those missing from Ladder 3 sit in a large picture frame near the station's entrance.

A welcome visit

Lt. Stephen Browne said he appreciated the governors stopping by to visit.

"It helps make us feel better when you stop by and support us," said Browne, whose company has been rotated back to its normal duties after several days at the trade center site. "We'll take it one day at a time, one foot in front of the other, and see how things work out."

The day ended at the New Amsterdam Theater, where George E. Pataki, New York's Republican governor, stopped by to shake hands and say thanks.

"It may be raining, but look, the lights are on on 42nd Street," he said. "Your being here sends a strong message that New York is open and we're back."

The governors' tour continues today in Washington with stops at the Pentagon and the National Museum of American History.

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