One month later

The last 30 days have brought a war, new fears and much still to be resolved

Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2001

WASHINGTON - One month later, Americans have removed 260,000 tons of rubble from the World Trade Center and created unknown tons in Afghanistan. Smoke spires from ruins in both lands.

Everywhere there is an accounting, in numbers and by other means. It's one month now into a journey from American ground zero to Afghan ground zero, from dust to dust.

On Oct. 11, the United States has a still-uncertain terror death toll, a war, a new civil defense agency, a popular president, a recession pressing in, a run on car-borne flags that have begun to fray in the wind, a canonized New York mayor, better manners here and there, a score to settle and touchy nerves. The day dawned cloudless in New York and Washington, much like Sept. 11.

Pollsters who used to ask people about Social Security now ask how they are sleeping. Not well, comes the answer, but better as time goes on.

A schoolboy spoke for many Americans when he went back to class this week at a building that was near the twin towers until Sept. 11.

"I've paid my emotional dues," said Stuyvesant high school freshman Max Bernstein. "But it still bothers me."

One month later, innocent powder spooks people. Could that be anthrax, the would-be biological weapon of terrorists?

"I could probably drop a package of Sweet'N Low and evacuate this building," said Ken Pineau, Collier County, Fla., emergency director, after one anthrax death, a second case and a few false scares emptied buildings in several parts of the state. Officials on Wednesday reported a third anthrax case at the same supermarket-tabloid offices in Boca Raton.

At drugstores, customers are demanding anthrax treatment as a precaution and Bayer, the aspirin company, is reopening a German plant to spur production of its anti-anthrax antibiotic.

In the air, the rules have changed. You can bring an umbrella on an airliner but not a hockey stick. You can take one carry-on bag along with a briefcase - no exceptions - instead of two bags, or three, or whatever you could get away with before.

No more turning the other cheek in the air - the old passive hijack policy. When a disturbed passenger stormed the cockpit of an American Airlines flight, thinking it was going into Chicago's Sears Tower, other passengers stormed him.

On the ground, the Pentagon stands dreadfully gashed, soot staining its limestone, but very much in business. It prosecutes a war brought on by the four hijacked airliners of Sept. 11, one of which plowed into it from six feet up, killing all 64 on the plane and, it's believed, 125 in the building.

A month later:

In New York, about 20 percent of the debris from the obliterated towers has been taken away, 15,846 truckloads and counting. The last of the federal rescue teams got home Monday, to Oakland, Calif.

Smoke still rises, much less than before. The gray dust that blanketed the neighborhood has been mostly cleaned, but piled, twisted debris still dominates the scene, still a vision of hell at the core, not so much a moonscape any more.

The toll there: 4,815 people missing at the World Trade Center and an additional 422 confirmed dead. As well, 157 are dead from the airliners that went into the towers.

Except in the blocked-off area, downtown streets are crowded with pedestrians again, like normal. But more than 3,000 residents of Battery Park City, a high-end rental community to the southwest of the trade center, are not back in their homes.

The New York attack destroyed $12 billion in computers alone and $7 billion in phones and subway equipment. Together that's the size of what passes for the Afghan economy.

In the war, four days of bombing and missile attacks have crushed most of the Taliban's air defenses and given the United States and allies control of the skies, the Pentagon says. The Taliban - their only daily voice coming from a diplomat in Pakistan - deny that.

No allied casualties or downed aircraft have been reported in the attacks and there has been no accounting of Taliban dead. Four U.N. employees were killed by mistake.

The U.S. war effort is drawn from most parts of the country. Officials have called up 27,025 reservists from 44 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico; abroad, 30,000 Americans in uniform are in the region.

President Bush's broad but fragile coalition has at its core a pledge of direct military support from five traditional U.S. allies, a pledge already made good by British forces that joined the opening assault.

In the economy, the recession that threatened before now seems unavoidable.

The federal budget surplus that is now projected to become a deficit is only the beginning of money problems facing government. Across the country, states grappling with new security demands, tourism crises and the ripple effects of a weakened economy are calling legislative sessions to deal with budget shortfalls they are bound by law to avoid.

What government has lost in cash it has gained, at least for now, in trust. Support for Bush rose like the temperature on a fever chart. About two-thirds of Americans trust Washington to do the right thing, polls found. Before, less than one-third.

So far in the largest criminal investigation in U.S. history - also involving investigators from 30 countries and intelligence from more than 100 - no one has been charged directly in the attacks.

The dragnet has resulted in the arrest or detention of 150 suspected terrorists or terrorism supporters in 25 countries. In the United States, more than 600 people have been brought in and 200 are being sought.

Nuclear facilities are on the highest state of alert, federal air marshals are slipping into more airline seats and the FBI has told 18,000 local law enforcement agencies and 27,000 corporate security managers to be on alert.

A month ago, Tom Ridge swung into action as Pennsylvania governor when a hijacked plane crashed in his state, killing all 44 on board. On Tuesday, he went to work as director of the new Office of Homeland Security responsible for coordinating civil defense and terror response among a host of agencies.

And in Bloomington, Ind., they've ripped away at the rock face of the Bybee Stone Co. quarry, yielding slabs of limestone to be sized, polished and shipped to make the Pentagon whole.



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