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New York Is The World's City, Not Just America's

By now, all of the usual descriptive terms have been exhausted in describing the terrorist attack on New York City: criminal, barbaric, cowardly, heinous, monstrous.

To me, the attack was singularly mindless, and demonstrated the most basic lack of understanding of what New York City is, and the consequences of the terrorists' own actions.

New York City is not just America's greatest city. It is the world's greatest city. New York City is not just home to Americans, who are such objects of hatred for the terrorists.

It is home to Ethiopians, Sudanese, Dominicans, Brazilians, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Iranis, Lebanese, Rumanians, Swedes, and people from any other country you choose to name. The religious community in New York City does not consist only of Christians and Jews, who must be such anathema to the terrorists. There are thriving communities of Muslims of every stripe, Baha'i, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Hindus and Sikhs.

Sit at a sidewalk cafe table for 10 minutes anywhere on Broadway - Uptown, Midtown or Lower Manhattan - and listen closely to the people walking by. In all likelihood, you will hear English spoken in not more than one out of every five conversations. Even a linguist might not recognize more than half the languages spoken.

Look at those same people walking by, and you would be hard put to come up with a physical description for a "typical" New Yorker. They come in every race, color, size, and shape.

New York City is, simply, the greatest amalgamation of races and religions ever known to mankind. It is the epitome of a melting pot, in all of the best senses of the term. Because of this, the city palpably vibrates with energy. This, the greatest center of culture, education and commerce in the world, holds within its heartbeat the unspoken aspirations of men, women and children of every conceivable ethnic origin, from those who have lived there all their lives to those from distant lands whose feet have just stepped on its soil.

The song "New York, New York," sung so memorably by Frank Sinatra, expresses in a few words the hopes of so many New Yorkers: "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere."

I'm grateful one of my sons chose to see if he could "make it there" by living, studying and working in New York City. He has given me an excuse to go there every chance I get.

Even with my own career and life firmly rooted in Seattle, I feel drawn inexorably to that great kaleidoscope of people and happenings. Over the years I have found that those feelings of mine are not at all unique, and that the Big Apple's magnetic charm works its way into the hearts of people everywhere.

Terms such as ruthless, cold-blooded and fanatical do not adequately explain for me how people could be so misguided as to think that destroying two skyscrapers housing 50,000 civilian workers in every shade of commercial, governmental and non-profit enterprise touching the lives of people all over the globe could be an act of courage or an act in service of some God.

The minds that engineered this attack may have conceived and mobilized a plan brilliant in its coordination and execution, but those were muddled minds at best, because they could not possibly have understood what New York City means, not just to America, but to the world, and even to themselves.

They could not possibly have understood that New York City is a living embodiment of how Jews and Arabs can live and thrive in the same space, and how people from tribal or religious factions who kill one another every day elsewhere in the world can co-exist in peace as neighbors on the same block in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx.

The attack on the Pentagon might be viewed as an attack on America's military nerve center. But in attacking New York City, the terrorists attacked not just America, but the entire world.

The masterminds of the attack are somewhere in hiding today, perhaps still giddily congratulating themselves on their seemingly stunning success.

But what they do not realize is that those were not just Americans who died at their hands in those pulverized World Trade Center towers. Those were also their own neighbors, and their own brothers, sisters, parents and children. Chi-Dooh Li is a Seattle attorney. E-mail:

©Copyright 2001, Seattle Post - Intelligencer

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