Street Smart Chicago

Massive Attack: Joshua Fischer spends the day wandering about, talking about tragedy

Essays & Commentary, News etc., Wicker Park Add comments

By Joshua Fischer

This is how my day began: I woke up to NPR on the radio. I heard some strange talk of an “attack.” I turned on the television and saw that image, which has continued to play repeatedly in my head since that point. Those buildings. That plane. The explosion. I screamed. A few hours later, I went outside, walked through Wicker Park, and talked to others about their day.

On this beautiful sunny day, perfect for flying, a plane soars overhead. According to news reports, all planes have been grounded. I realize that it’s a fighter plane patrolling. On my block, a young woman clutching a laptop computer exits her car and enters her apartment. I can hear her crying.

Stopping at Pizza Metro, I speak with Scott Jones and Mike Sadegi. Both young men work downtown. Both of their offices have been closed. “It feels like ‘The Twilight Zone,’” Scott says. It’s eerie on the street, but life is happening: people are shopping, cars are blasting music, yet some pedestrians walk in a daze and make occasional eye contact with inquisitive expressions. Down the street, an independent film crew watches a television on the sidewalk outside of the Gold Star bar. “Shooting is going slow,” a crewman tells me.

Art Institute grad student Heather Lindahl is shooting with a handheld camera. Her husband, Michael Graham, interviews a group of young Wicker Park residents about the day’s events. After watching coverage on the major networks, they wanted to go outside in their neighborhood and just talk to people.

At Milwaukee, Damen and North, there’s still a guy dressed up like a hot dog outside of Underdog, yet it’s fairly quiet in this usually active intersection. Inside the Local Grind, a television plays on the counter and customers crowd around for any breaking news. Phil and Susan, a couple from San Francisco, watch the television from a nearby couch. Their flight home from O’Hare was obviously cancelled. “We saw the initial explosion on TV at O’Hare,” Phil says. “Soon afterward, every TV was shut off… Everyone was told to leave. It was calm. Most people didn’t know what was going on.” After arriving at Columbia for class, Emily Duke was informed school was cancelled. She truly understood the horror of today’s event when her professor all but broke out in tears as he informed the class what had happened.

Customers at Earwax Café seem in shock as well while a sullen mood hangs inside the stuffy room. Suzy Poling eats lunch with Rob Doran, and they discuss the day’s events as they have since this morning when a phone call from Suzy’s father informed her of the catastrophe. She called her sister in New York City, found out she was fine, but was unsure of friends who work at the World Trade Center. Poling, obviously, is not alone in having friends and family in New York. Nearly everyone I met today, as well as myself, is concerned for the people they know in the city.

Down Milwaukee, Myopic Books is closed. A sign in the window at Reckless Records reads “Reckless is closed. Go give blood.” At press, explosions are occurring in Afghanistan. Today and tomorrow many people will give blood.

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