They watched it from the streets. They watched it from their offices. And to many New Yorkers, the scenes of a city under siege were achingly familiar.
New Yorkers watching the televised bombing of Baghdad yesterday said they were riveted by the raw and uninterrupted display of American military might. But for some, the bombing brought back particularly visceral and chilling memories. They could not help thinking about Sept. 11, and how New York, too, was once under assault from the skies.
An explosion rocks Baghdad during air strikes March 21, 2003. Large explosions shook Baghdad during a night of blistering air strikes. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)
On that day, Eva Temple, 47, was one of the thousands of people working in Lower Manhattan who escaped the rumbling dust cloud that accompanied the collapse of the World Trade Center. And for at least a few days after, she collected prayer cards from the street prophets and doomsday preachers whose advice she would ordinarily have ignored. It made her feel better.
Now, because of the war, Ms. Temple is collecting those cards again. She is opposed to the war, yes, but more than anything, she is frightened, and fears that New York will once again become a target. Yesterday was the worst, she said. There she was, trying to eat in Times Square, when she noticed people craning their necks to watch the giant television screens.
"I saw enough, and I don't want to see any more," said Ms. Temple, who works for a federal agency in New York City. "I just feel that retaliation is going to come."
The terror attack in New York loomed in the minds of many supporters of the war, too. One, Raku DePalma, 32, a computer consultant from Jersey City who watched the bombing from his Manhattan office, started a Web site after the attacks to express his patriotic sentiments. Since then, he has been obsessed, he said, with cataloguing the country's antiterror efforts and preparations for war, taping the news incessantly and watching those tapes, over and over again.
A woman, wounded by shrapnel when an explosion rocked her house, seeks help from British soldiers manning a checkpoint near the southern Iraqi town of Safwan, near the border with Kuwait, March 22, 2003. After pounding Baghdad with a fearsome night blitz, U.S. and British forces made their first day-time air attacks on Saturday and advanced on Iraq's second city of Basra. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
Another supporter of the war, Matt Berman, 31, a vice president of a consulting firm, said the bombing made him fear another terror attack on New York. "I'm walking to the subway right now and I'm having second thoughts," he said.
Yesterday, as bombs rained on a city 6,000 miles from New York, politicians and law enforcement officials took steps to prevent terrorism at home, much like the ones they had taken immediately after Sept. 11.
Security officials searching checked baggage at the American Airlines Terminal at La Guardia Airport found a gas mask and white powder in a suitcase belonging to a woman who had recently traveled from Israel, raising concerns that the powder might be a chemical or biological agent, officials said.
Preliminary tests on the powder indicated that it contained anthrax spores, but later tests found that it did not, officials said.
In the interim, officials closed part of the terminal near the ticketing area, but the woman had already boarded a flight for Dallas. When she landed, she was questioned by the F.B.I. and released, officials said.
Gov. George E. Pataki said he had asked the federal government to enforce a no-flight zone over the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester in light of the heightened threat of a terrorist attack. And Gov. James E. McGreevey of New Jersey and Gov. John G. Rowland of Connecticut have written letters to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge asking for a ban on flights over nuclear facilities in their states.
Meanwhile, in downtown Manhattan, Christiane Lissner, 34, said it was frightening to see real bombs falling.
Ms. Lissner said she understood the need for war. "I can kind of relate to Bush's politics because I was here on 9/11," she said. "I thought it wouldn't have come to that end, though. It's very, very sad."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company