New York Journal

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Dr. Susan Williams, 15-year Chief of Gastroenterology and now an attending physician at Metropolitan Hospital in East Harlem, recently led a successful campaign for the unionization of doctors there.

Day 1 – Sept. 11

At Metropolitan Hospital in East Harlem, we watch the World Trade Center come down on the waiting room TVs. The hospital is on disaster alert, and so we wait. Five busloads of victims are rumored to be on their way, but never materialize. By evening, we’ve treated only six people, rescue workers suffering from minor injuries or smoke inhalation.

Day 3 – Sept. 13

Our hospital is one block from the city’s largest mosque. My coworkers – Indian, Black, Puerto Rican, Chinese and Korean – deplore the looting of a nearby Muslim-owned store by a small mob.

Day 4 – Sept. 14

Everyone here has lost someone, or is close to someone who has. Spontaneous vigils take place every day. now peace activists are joining with the mourners. Despite the constant rants on TV, there is little pro-war sentiment in the streets.

Day 5 – Sept. 15

An emergency meeting of Left and progressive organizations is held. I am stunned by the turnout, 150 people from an incredible range of groups. We agree that war is not the answer to terrorism, that we must defend Arabs and anyone targeted by racial bigotry, and that we must be prepared for attacks on civil liberties.

There are jarring notes: one woman says she welcomes the CIA’s role, because who else has the capacity to find and capture terrorists. I get a strong sense of nervousness of liberals, their fear of being isolated by the supposedly strong public support for Bush’s jingoistic policies.

Day 9 – Sept. 19

More than 400 people crowd into SEIU 1199 headquarters to attend the second meeting of the city-wide coalition. The huge response of people committed to building an anti-war movement is heartening. By my Radical Women and Freedom Socialist Party colleagues are frustrated because our proposals for collaborations with other organizations and for amendments to the points of unity don’t get a hearing. Discussion is abridged, and the body gets fractioned into many working groups.

Day 12 – Sept. 22

Daily vigils continue at Union Square. Hundreds of candles are burning tonight in the south plaza and sidewalk alcoves, and the iron fences have become a democracy wall. They are filled with paper banners, mostly of hand-printed messages of solidarity and hope. Many call for peace. Hundreds of people step carefully around the candles and flowers. The sense of connection is tremendous – so different from the usual rushing anonymity of the NYC streets.

Day 15 – Sept. 25

An alarming e-mail thread appears on the newly formed anti-war list. Conceding to the call for retaliation, some people propose the coalition take a position on how to “bring the terrorists to justice,” albeit through “legal” rather than military means. We in FSP and RW plan to raise an alternative plan at tonight’s meeting, calling for a focus on stopping the arrogant, repressive U.S. actions that engender a terrorist response. But we are unable to get the floor, and the debate is ended without a resolution. Can we create enough democracy for this anti-war coalition to work?

Day 16 – Sept. 26

Just as the list was becoming a vehicle for meaningful debate, it is shut because of “too many personal interchanges.” Only event announcements will be posted. Mayor Giuliani, meanwhile, is tightening up the city, which already has the feel of a military occupation. Everyone from outside Manhattan is late to work and tells of roadblocks set up at every exit.

Day 17 – Sept. 27

With the city supposedly back to business as usual, New Yorkers were told that 100,000 restaurant, hotel, theater, and other workers here have lost their jobs or will lose their jobs in the disaster’s aftermath. At work, it’s like a collective, low-level post-traumatic stress disorder has taken hold. We tell each other, imagine how it is for other people who live this way all the time.

A friend from Brazil sent my household a message circulating there: Stand in a moment of silence for those killed in the U.S. on 9/11, it said. Now be silent another 13 minutes for 130,000 Iraqi civilians dead in 1991 on the order of Bush senior; then stand another 15 minutes in memory of 150,000 Afghans slain with guns and money from the U.S. And more – so that one would stand for hours. Some people get this. I believe, in the wake of 9/11, that more people in the U.S. are seeing themselves as citizens of the world.

Day 19 – Sept. 29

The IMF called off its gathering in Washington, D.C. but protesters didn’t! The liberal leadership of the Mobilization for Global Justice baked out, but the International Action Center, many leftists, and thousands of young people went forward. Here is the inspiration that September 11 will not mean the abandoning in the U.S. of the struggle for freedom from exploitation, but its strengthening.

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