5950 words, short story
86, 87, 88, 89
THE HOMELAND ARCHIVE WELCOMES YOU
You are part of a vital effort to recover evidence of terrorist activity preceding the Raids, and on a larger scale, to preserve the heritage of a historic neighborhood of New York City.
The Archive Division of the Greater New York Municipal Safety Authority has received a generous grant from Central to assist its efforts to catalog and analyze the remaining evidence.
The next several weeks are a crucial window of recovery and classification. Please remember, all materials which the Division handles or records are matters of national security and are to be considered classified; it is necessary to maintain the highest confidentiality regarding your time as an archive associate.
Please report to your local Superintendent with an executed copy of the attached confidentiality agreement to indicate you understand the clauses laid therein.
The Homeland Archive thanks you for your service.
The New York City Municipal Authority
ASSIGNED SECTOR: 2
ASSIGNED SCOPE: 86, 87, 88, 89
PLEASE REPORT TO SCOPE LEADER FOR NOTARIZATION OF THIS DOCUMENT AND TO RECEIVE ASSIGNMENT DETAILS
The first time I’d ever even been to any of those streets was the morning I reported to my scope leader, who was sitting behind a desk that looked like it had once belonged to a teacher, but there had been a couple of schools in the neighborhood and it was better not to think too much about it.
When you applied to the Homeland Archive, they asked a lot of questions about how many questions you asked.
They were already setting up when I got there, a series of tents with people setting up computers and scanners and ink-safe drying equipment that looked like a hair salon from the 1950s.
There was a boxy, lumbering truck at the end of the line of tents, marked ELECTRIC.
“That’s riding too low for a truck that’s already unloaded generators,” Jesse said to me under her breath (that was how we met), and of course when you looked again she was right.
I don’t know who else she pointed it out to, or who else maybe figured it out just from being smarter than I was, but every so often when people brought things back, one of them was standing next to the driers, and when you pulled it from under the tray he’d look at it too casually and too long for a guy who was just there to turn the lights on.
Never seen so many electricians in my life.
File 00088513. Fifty-seven (57) canceled studio rental application forms, Ballet Hispanico [Studio 10, Tansill, Studio 8, Studio 9, several partials with unidentifiable allocation]. Cancellation of space rentals over the three weeks preceding New York Action indicates the potential harboring of terrorists or terrorist activity at location. Flagged RED. Further investigation suggested.
File 00104309. Twelve (12) partial Con Edison power bills for [REDACTED] Amsterdam Avenue, Apt. 4F, from last 36 months. Expense trends cannot be determined. Address not associated with criminal activity. Archived.
I was good at it.
It was a strange thing to be good at—it was supposed to be so solemn, I guess, to be clearing up after the Raid on the terrorists and their harborers, they played the Anthem every day at noon so we wouldn’t forget that it was so solemn—but there was a sense of victory, sometimes, that the city had gotten the traitors out. (“Good morning on another sunny, terror-free day here at WRPX,” Dexter Destro would say over the radio, every morning as they bussed us in.)
You got used to deciphering text from under layers of dust and blood, standing on a table in a pool of water knee-deep sticking your hand into a pool of sewage and hoping your hazard suit held up. The suit always did; it was surprising how much held up. I can’t remember how many times we walked into a building where the outside walls had blown out or in and left you with a five million dollar patio, but the books would be tucked safe into the shelves, ready and waiting.
They were always covered in dust an inch thick, from all the sheet rock and stone that turned to powder in the blasts. It looked like we’d come back to clean it out after leaving it alone a hundred years.
(It was just a feeling. They’d put out the call for volunteers pretty early; I got the call to sign up before I got the call that anything had happened.)
“I have allergies,” Kepler said the first time we ever walked into one, and the scope leader sighed and moved him to the electronics beat, where he’d be scanning through computers that still had any working parts.
I liked Kepler, but he was afraid of dirty work, that you could tell from a mile off.
(“He was a librarian,” Jesse said, like it explained anything, but the books were mostly okay, so I didn’t understand how that was his reason.)
We archived in pairs, when we came across a high-density area—I’d pack books one at a time into boxes on trolleys, calling out the titles, and Jesse would write them down on the manifest and hand it to the movers when the room was clear.
It was long and tiring work, and somehow books come in endless sizes so that no box ever fills up right, and eventually it makes you loopy. Some people had awful taste. Our whole scope would compare notes about the worst ones, when we were lined up on the benches eating dinner before the bus home. We laughed a lot.
Every so often, when we were in a high-density area that used to be a bookstore or a school library, I’d read a title and Jesse’s face would go tight for a second before she wrote it down.
In orientation, the Archives administrators tell you that you should be on watch for signs of burnout, and report them to your scope leader as soon as you saw anything that seemed like a panic attack, or a pattern of suspicious behavior from one of your team.
(“This job asks a lot of everyone,” the rep said, looking sympathetically around the recruits as if it was only a matter of time before we all peeled off our hazmat suits in tears and went home. I could have understood it for Census, but we only handled docs. Maybe that speech was meant to spur you on and make you more determined to archive until every street was clear. Just seemed like bad salesmanship.
Our scope leader only ever said, “Report the second you think something’s up. That shit’s catching.”)
It wasn’t anything that bad with Jesse, of course. That was the kind of thing you said about Kepler. Jesse had herself together, most of the time.
That odd expression always came and went in a second. Not even the Census people ever noticed her doing it, and they were nervous about the smallest things.
File 10095603. Twenty-seven (27) menus from Fresco Mexico, marked with handwritten telephone numbers, presumably arranged in order of delivery service. Phone number [REDACTED] is on a watch list for terrorist activity, and has been flagged RED and forwarded. All other samples archived.
File 10100676. One (1) hard drive from a laptop containing forty thousand, nine hundred and seventy-four relevant text, photo, visual and audio files. After scan, none suspected to contain seditious or revolutionary content. Archived.
File 10217794. One (1) official map of the American Museum of Natural History. Most likely identifiable provenance lies outside of current scope. Returned to Scope Leader 10024-F for appropriate filing. Transferred.
For the first week or so they left us alone, like it was a trial period to make sure you knew how to recognize a piece of paper when you saw one. Then they started breathing down your neck.
Parker was the first to go, for low output.
“It’s okay if you signed up because you want three squares a day and a place in the Days Inn until this is finished,” the reps told us that night, during headcount while we lined up for the buses. “We know times are hard, and we don’t discriminate based on anyone’s situation or background. But we ask that in return for the courtesy you’re getting, that you give one hundred percent while you’re here.”
No one said anything. That kind of thing was hard to admit, even when you were doing honest work. The buses always picked up from 108th on purpose, so no one knew where you were coming from.
At the end of the first week the scope leader came up over a dome of rubble and half a pool table out to the open yard where we were working, to ask us how many documents we thought might be from another scope by mistake. Things had spread, and people up in Municipal were trying to get survey numbers fast.
I reached into my cart and handed over a waterlogged copy of Computing for Beginners; the covers were curling back at the edges, like they couldn’t bear to touch anything.
Inside it was stamped for PS 75. They were up on 96th Street.
(Someone had to have brought it home from school; I couldn’t imagine the city having bombed that high just to get rid of a few kids making noise.)
The scope leader stared at it.
Kepler said, “At lunch, some people from 10024-F were talking about how it looked like Municipal was going to have to set up a whole other rig for the park, so much stuff got blown into it.”
“Jesus Christ,” the scope leader muttered, sounding the way I’d sound if I had to give very bad news to very organized people.
The next day when the shuttle bus dropped us off on site, there were half a dozen cop cars lined up along 89th Street. The cops closest to us were leaning against the side of their car, half-covering the ad stripe for the Alpha Team 5 movie that had been due in theaters two weeks ago. It was about saving the city from hackers, and the studio had postponed it in the wake of the Raid, out of respect.
The old date was still on the ad. It had all happened in a hurry.
“What is this?” Jesse asked Kepler, after we were suiting up, well out of earshot of the cops and the scope leaders.
“Maybe they want to make sure we’re not sneaking stuff in from other jurisdictions,” I said, because Jesse looked like she needed a laugh.
Kepler said, “We’re fine. We haven’t done anything wrong,” and turned into the tech tent to pick up his scanner.
When I brought Jesse’s scanner back for her from Registration, she was looking across the mostly-empty stretch going west, from the park, the neat rows of stoops that climbed up to half-made frames and hills of dust, all the way out to the water.
File 18440569. Fourteen (14) pages and ten (10) partial pages of piano music. Appear to be excerpted from Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. Archived.
We did things in pretty big batches, because hauling back and forth meant standing in line to get your stuff dried out, and so we carried it all back at dusk so we could archive and take off the suits with their layers of dust and board the buses home all in one swoop.
So it must have been dusk, or near it, when we came back and Kepler brought his two laptops and the disc drive to the tech tent.
Jesse and I waited for the dryers for some handwritten notes we had found—handwritten was good, that meant maybe one of the New Day New City kids had written it after the city cut the power, trying to drive them out. I could see the words “sorry for,” which weren’t very damning but could be interesting all the same. The Archives people always got excited when you brought in anything handwritten that hadn’t been made by a grade schooler.
Mine were drying when Kepler called out, “Hit Blue,” like you were supposed to when you found something suspicious.
When I’d found the Ballet Hispanico sheets I’d brought them to the archive tents with a Hit Blue, one of the electricians had stuck his head in as the Archive monitors examined them and nodded at one another and took them to a locked flat file, and then they thanked me for my diligence and told me to keep moving so the guys behind me could dry out their hauls before the day was over.
When Kepler called his Hit Blue, there was a minute or two of quiet. (Now I imagine it must have been some half-interested Archive techie reading it over, their eyes slowly growing wider and wider. Maybe they read it all the way to the end, just to be sure what it was.)
Then there was a flurry from inside the tent. A second later, the flap flew up, and Kepler marched out with an Archives monitor on each side pushing him a little faster, and in the distance two of the cops had seen them and were already on the move. They were headed back to where we’d been all day, where he’d found it.
“Jesus,” someone said.
Jesse left her post, walked out the tent flap to watch them going. She watched them so long the paper in her dryer burned to cinders.
File 19005314. Document file (“systemsatwork.doc”), containing incendiary allegations against the State. Text has been previously published on liberal website ShoutLouder.org at [ADDRESS REDACTED] on [DATE REDACTED].[QuickReference Identifying Text: “Unless our country’s people—its real heart and its real power—are willing to acknowledge that the system is the problem, that the system is broken, and that the people in charge have no desire to change it—and will NEVER change it—of their own volition, it must continue to be demanded, loudly, by all those people they’ve disenfranchised.
We will demand it on the steps of City Hall, on the steps of Congress, on the steps of the United Nations if need be. We are a country being held hostage by our government—we will cry out for change. They will shout that we don’t matter. We will shout louder.”
Full file attached for archival purposes.]
High probability of terrorist authorship. Recovered from Intellicorp brand USB drive (4GB). Flagged RED, PRIORITY 1. Device sent to Schematics for forensic and technical analysis. UPC code sent to Digital Division for purchase trace.
Human remains located in near vicinity, but due to proximity of the initial blast radius, unable to determine potential body of origin.
Kepler didn’t show up the next morning.
After a little quiet, Jesse asked me, “What do you think he found?”
She was a pretty good Archivist, for someone who’d joined up as an amateur. She always wanted to get to the source of a thing.
“Maybe we’ll find the first draft and find out.”
“Yeah,” she said. “Maybe.” She pulled on the hood of her hazmat suit, until it was just a sea of yellow and her two black eyes.
He didn’t show up the next morning, either.
It was five days before he showed back up, with one dark eye socket.
I started to say, “Shit, what happened,” but Jesse shook her head no, and we all just stood uselessly nearby and watched him get into his hazmat suit, slow and painful and looking like he’d aged fifty years.
“Good to have you back,” Jesse said, as he headed out, but he never looked up. Maybe he hadn’t heard her.
“Cops must have had him this whole time,” she said.
I went cold all over. “What do they think he did? They can’t think he had anything to do with—there aren’t any more of them, the city bombed them out. He’s one of us.”
After a second she said, “They must know that. He’s back now.”
He never talked about what had happened while he was away. When he and Jesse were working closely together, sometimes they’d hit a body and have to call in Census, or a cop would walk by on patrol, and they would stand really close, too close, until everything was quiet again.
Once we came across some Hit Blue material (someone had had a protest pamphlet on their fridge), and Jesse picked her way over half a couch and a hill of splintered lumber and said something to Kepler.
All that day, he swung wide of us, picking at piles of nothing, so that someone else from the scope picked up the house computers and carried them back.
I didn’t say anything. It got harder to blame him, the more you looked around.
THANK YOU, HOMELAND ARCHIVISTS!
You are the most crucial workers, guiding us closer our vision of a safer, terrorism-free city. The work you do is difficult and exacting, and takes the utmost absorption and concentration, but do not let this discourage you from your duty. This is the necessary work on which a country’s safety is assured. Remember this!
You are heroes of the city; you are the keepers of the Republic!
You weren’t supposed to touch anything that was outside your scope—we were professionals, not scavengers—but every once in a while someone saw something they couldn’t resist. It was worse with the Census guys. Working that close to the bodies, it was easy for things to go missing; watches and rings and earrings are hard to keep track of when so much is in pieces.
Archives people were a bunch of collectors, and they picked up stranger things. A lot of the Museum shrapnel disappeared—half-tiles and slivers of placards and fragments of dinosaur skeletons. Every so often you’d see someone looking at a letter opener or putting a small painting on the trolley. The paintings almost always got confiscated, though.
“We’ll be rebuilding here,” one of the city reps said once, when they took back a painting of two apples and a brass teapot on a table in an empty room. She said it like they were going to be putting everything back right where it had been, like this had just shaken everything loose and it wouldn’t take long to set right.
Even then I didn’t think that was a very fair way to put it.
Somebody pocketed a little toy soldier once, one of the green plastic ones, out of a calf-deep pile of splinters that might have been a tree, or the dining room of a house. That struck me, for no reason I could say, and I looked at her and wondered if maybe she’d known one of the civilians who’d been caught in the blast, and got a sharp pain in my stomach for a second before I pulled it together.
You didn’t think about that kind of thing. Census workers had to get training about it, once a week, to remind them.
One of them gave Jesse a receipt once—pulled it out of the pair of jeans that was on a body, looked at it, handed it over. Jesse looked at the Census guy for a long time, and when she put it in her pocket he made a face like that was what he hoped she’d do.
I waited to see what would happen, but she kept it in her pocket without saying anything, until at the end of the day as we were getting the trolley ready, I said, “Did you want to put that receipt in with the rest?”
The answer was Yes, it was Yes, instantly; you didn’t pocket paperwork, that was the sort of guilt that made you look like a New Day New City sympathizer.
Sometimes, since Kepler, I’d gotten nervous.
She blinked for a second, like I’d surprised her. Then she said, “Oh, right,” and pulled it out, and marked where she had found it, the exact street address like she’d meant to do it all along.
I couldn’t tell if she looked guilty or not; it came and went in a second.
It was tiring work. There comes a point where it doesn’t matter; tables or trees, plaster or bone.
File 19044060. Receipt from Topped o’ the Morning soft-serve franchise, dated 11 April, for one (1) medium cup with toppings and one (1) child’s cone with sprinkles. No indication of terrorist relation. Archived.
NOTE: Recovered from within pants pocket of civilian collateral damage—preferred notation of Archive provenance uncertain.
REMINDER TO ARCHIVE RECOVERY ASSOCIATES: Please indicate clearly the provenance of each item recovered and the circumstances of its archiving. Accuracy is crucial in determining the timeline of events leading up to the Raid. Items found on or in the near vicinity of human remains may be considered to be personal effects by the Homeland Archives. In these cases, please return them at once to the appropriate associate at the Homeland Evidentiary Census Office for filing.
NOTE TO ALL ARCHIVE RECOVERY ASSOCIATES: According to the most recent guidelines delivered from the Greater New York Municipal Authority to all Scope Leaders and Managers, all paper and/or electronic documentation or correspondence, regardless of provenance, is considered the jurisdiction of the Archive Department and will be cataloged accordingly. When part of personal effects, the corresponding remains will be cross-referenced with the Evidentiary Census.
It had been so many weeks that I’d started to feel like we’d be fighting snow on top of fighting the dust and the splinters and the rats that had just begun to get brave enough to appear all at once out of places that looked quietly dead, the day I found the police report.
It was curled at the edges—moisture was terrible for paper—but it had been shoved so far back in the drawer, in a folder marked “vacation plans,” that it was still legible right where we stood.
I glanced at it. Then without knowing why, I said, “Jesse.”
I showed it to her without letting her take hold of it. I didn’t know how to let it go. It felt like an alarm was going to go off the second I loosened my grip.
She stood next to me, reading, until she started to shake. Then she stepped back, like she was worried about alarms, too.
Then she asked, in a voice I didn’t recognize, “Are you going to turn that in?”
Sympathizer, I thought, even though that was impossible—those were all gone.
I thought about tucking this into my shoe as we detoxed, walking from the bus pickup to the nearest news outlet. Would they even show it if I did?
It was foolish to think they didn’t know, if even part of it was true. They’d been on the ground for the protests. They had footage, if they wanted it. Where was I supposed to take it, then?
I thought, like a traitor, Would Jesse know who?
I thought about what would happen to me, if I took this outside, and word got out, and the Archives knew this is where I had been.
“It’s not up to me,” I said.
She looked at me for a second, eyes flat and hard, and then shouldered past me and headed down the open path as fast as she could, already pulling off her hazmat helmet, knocking aside a cloud of dust.
I handed it over first thing inside the tent, without even looking at the Archive monitor who took it from me.
“Would you look at this,” Kepler was saying as I went out, showing me some flier with the Homeland and Municipal seals at the top, and it was the most agitated I’d seen him since he was being escorted out of the tech tent, but I didn’t stop. I needed to be out.
The hazmat suit felt too close, everywhere, like I had stayed too long in one place without moving, and a layer of dust had settled so heavy I’d never get out from under.
File 78154406. One (1) incident report from the 87th Street police precinct. Reported by Officer [NAME REDACTED] on [DATE REDACTED], when the NYPD attempted to clear a cell of New Day New City demonstrators. Complaint lists a number of incidents of alleged police brutality. Destroyed.
THANK YOU, HOMELAND EVIDENTIARY CENSUS WORKERS
You are the most crucial workers in the field today. Every day, your work brings us closer to identifying the domestic terrorists who sought to bring down our city, and finding justice for the civilians they endangered. The difficult work of the next few weeks will be the linchpin on which our further operations rest.
You are the key to victory; you are the keepers of the Republic!
TO: Scope Manager
BCC: District Superintendent
Today while working in the field, an Archive worker discovered a motivational flier evidently intended for a Census Worker.
While we understand the importance of equality and personal validation across all industries during this initial phase of evidence discovery and rebuilding, this flier has had an understandable negative effect on morale on those under my scope. The catalog output has noticeably slowed over the course of the afternoon—correlated, one assumes, to rumors spreading among the archivists in my scope that the Municipal Authority hasn’t been completely transparent about the support they’re receiving from the city in doing their assigned work under time-sensitive circumstances.
Please let me know any ideas you may have about how you and I can address this issue and restore morale to the workers within my scope; I am eager to help in any way I can, both for the sake of my staff and to improve their productivity on behalf of the city.
Scope Leader 10024-B
I’d never actually seen a Homeland car. I was still trying to figure out what ad would have required painting a police car black (perfume, maybe) when the agents stepped out, and it was only because they were wearing suits that I realized what was happening.
When they asked where my scope manager was (politely, so politely they had to ask twice, it didn’t sound like the kind of trouble I knew it was), I pointed, because chances were they knew who they were looking for, and they were just testing your loyalty to your scope.
They took him someplace no one ever found out, and spoke to him for an hour.
That night, as we were waiting for the buses, he showed up and started in.
“We are here to do the work the city needs,” he shouted, so loudly some of the electricians turned to look. “If you’re concerned about other scopes or sectors, you clearly do not have enough density of discovery at hand, and will be reassigned as I and the Municipal Authority see fit. I suggest that all of you concentrate on your own fucking tasks. The city asks for your help, but do not think this work cannot continue without you. We’re not finished here.”
The words echoed off the sides of the trucks for a second after he stopped. Then there was nothing. Everyone must have seen the car, or heard that they’d come.
From beside Kepler (she didn’t stand beside me any more), Jesse took in a heavy breath and held it. It was the only sound.
The buses slid north one at a time—86, 87, 88, 89.
When the bus dropped us off, and all of us went our ways, I saw that at each corner was a black cab with its call light off, pointed away from the intersection, and that one at a time they slid into the traffic and followed someone.
One of them went after Kepler, but he looked like he already knew.
(I should have asked him more about what happened, I thought. How long had our city been looking over our shoulders, and me with my eyes only on my own work?)
One of them turned the corner with Jesse, and I put my hand on my phone to call her and warn her, and let it drop. If they were watching us, they were listening to us.
This was what had been waiting for us, when we discovered anything they had asked us to discover, about the people they had rid themselves of.
The night had gotten cold, all at once, and even though store lights poured into the pavement and food carts along the avenue made rackets for the crowds, the street might as well have been empty, for how alone I was.
The car that followed me home parked in front of my building, right near the door. They had a mission, and nothing to hide.
To: Scope Manager
BCC: District Superintendent
I am in receipt of your message. Thank you for the swift reply.
Please understand that when I filed the initial question, the team morale had momentarily faltered due to the strain of the work and the circumstance that seemed to an outsider like potential carelessness from the Census division. In my initial questions, neither I nor any member of my team meant any disrespect or insubordination. We remain committed to our work.
Of course I have explained the situation to all members of the scope team, and they are very happy to be working alongside the Census team for the safety of the City’s people.
The situation has been resolved—I hope it will be to your satisfaction. Thank you again for your attention to the matter.
Scope Leader 10024-B
If you stood on the east side of Central Park West at 89th, next to what was left of the wall, you could see straight down to the Museum.
They had trucks there already, mobile stations and cranes and trucks loaded with stone. A coat of ants moved through and over it, people separating everything they could and start rebuilding.
“I heard about this,” said Jesse.
She was standing carefully on top of the rubble, beside a file cabinet sticking up like a knife from the ground. We were in the middle of the street—the remains were from a truck.
It was a clear day, cool and bright. If you looked ahead of you, it was the patches of Park that were left, and the piles of dust, and the museum in the middle of the green like a palace.
(If you looked behind you, there was a cop car parked half a block away. There were more of them every day, studding the streets anywhere in our scope where the roads were passable. This one had an ad for orange juice painted across it, bright and crawling halfway up to the roof. They weren’t Homeland. They didn’t care who saw them.)
“There are so many,” I said.
There were so few of us—a handful of buses could carry us—and so much of what we were doing was still dust and trouble.
I looked around absently for Kepler, though I wasn’t sure why I’d want him to see it. He should be looking at the park. He’d had enough unhappiness.
“The museum damage has been making the city look bad,” said Jesse, like she’d heard someone talking about it on the radio. (She hadn’t—there was radio silence about everything, since the Raid—but she always sounded like she knew her sources.) “They want something to show that it’s really over. That they got ‘em all.”
Sympathizer, I thought, but it seemed less terrifying now. Part of me was worried for her—they didn’t care if you were lying at all when they took you away, look at Kepler, she had to be more careful than this—but it was just a thing that made me numb, set in the row of other numb things, beside the place where you try not to tell plaster from bone.
I said, quietly, “I don’t know what they must have done, to bring this down on them.”
My voice shook, just saying it, like the cops a block away could hear me.
Jesse looked over at me.
She said, “It would have been someone, eventually. The city needs examples.”
That wasn’t how I’d meant it, I didn’t think—I’d wanted to know what they’d done, I wanted at last to ask questions—but it was over, and too late.
We pried the file cabinet out of the wreckage, and got to work.
File 30098516. Three (3) packing slips from medical supplies addressed to CityMed Mobile Clinic free medical service, with a parking permit for 87th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus. Invoices include: seventeen (17) cases of antibiotic cream, twenty-four (24) cases of medical gauze, four (4) cases of syringes; two (2) cases of analgesic ointment; one (1) case of vitamin supplements, three (23) cases of antihistamines.
CityMed Mobile records indicate these shipments to be atypical of the normal run of business. It seems highly probable the clinic was providing medical services to the domestic insurgent cell responsible for the Raid. Flagged RED. Have alerted Mayor’s office.
ADDENDUM: The District Superintendent has ordered the city to suspend all CityMed Mobile Clinic service pending investigation of insurgent sympathies within the organization. All documentation forwarded immediately to Office of the Investigator.
THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY WELCOMES YOU TONIGHT — ALL NIGHT
Metro Times—The months since the unforgettable Raids has been a dark time for New York. Rarely is a city forced to take action against its own. The shadow of domestic terrorism is a tough one to shake, and questions still linger about what could have been done to prevent the situation from escalating to the point of violence. That the insurgents were agitating for their goals, there’s no doubt—but that New York was the victim of friendly fire under executive order, there’s no denying.
The interim screening and security measures (temporarily overseen by the NYPD pending approval by the legislature) are only the beginning of a very tough hill New York—and the nation—will have to scale.
But New York is resilient—it knows how to rise from the ashes with flair. After months of tireless work by the newly-formed Archive and Census divisions of the Municipal Authority (sponsored by Central Trust Bank) throughout the Upper West Side, construction workers, conservationists, and curators were able to begin work on the restoration and rebuilding of one of the city’s most beloved institutions, the American Museum of Natural History.
Inch by inch, they’ve been fighting to repair every fossil, recapture every display, and reassemble every brick pulled from the blast site. “Every bone fragment we could find was the source of so much happiness it was like it was being excavated for the first time,” Museum Director Michael Archibald says. “When you’re trying to recover from something of this scale, every victory counts.”
And now, battered but far from broken, the Natural History Museum is once again opening its doors.
Beginning tonight at midnight, the Museum will open its doors twenty-four hours a day for the next week, a gift to the public and a symbol of the neighborhood’s indomitable will to rise above.
There will be no gala celebrations to mark the night. “This event is meant to be a good experience for those who want to come and enjoy the museum,” says Archibald, “yet we also recognize what the neighborhood has suffered and don’t want to trivialize that.”
The cleanup work continues. But for many this week in New York, an open door will be enough.
File 80005062. One (1) partial greeting card. Remaining text on the face reads “Happy Birthday to the Best—” Inside inscription, if any, missing. Recovered from sewer grate on northwest corner of 87th and Columbus Ave. Archived.
Genevieve Valentine is a novelist (her most recent is near-future political thriller Icon) and comic book writer, including Catwoman for DC Comics. Her short fiction has appeared in over a dozen Year's Best collections, including The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. Her nonfiction has appeared at the AV Club, NPR.org, The Atlantic, and the New York Times.