English novelist, essayist, and short story writer Zadie Smith has written an essay called “Under the Banner of New York” about the tragic event that grieved the city last week.
Image Via CNN
Smith shares her thoughts on how New Yorkers, in our “elastic social arrangement,” respond to such events, and how we faintheartedly carry on with our week unsure of what to do or how to help. In the moment, however, we do all come together and assist in any way we can.
Like many a New Yorker right now I talk a good game but my mind is scattered, disordered. To me, the city itself feels scattered, out of sorts; certainly carrying on like London, like Paris, but also, like those places, newly fearful, continuing with its routines while simultaneously wondering whether it still wants to, considering decamping to the countryside while being repulsed by that same thought—oh, and a ragbag of other random thoughts and anecdotes.
Despite the subject matter, Smith maintains a hopeful tone, essentially musing on New Yorkers as first responders. Alluding to two anecdotal stories of accidents that happened at the same curb on the same street corner in the same week, Smith recounts an old lady tripping and a stroller breaking apart. Common to both memories was a “community of strangers” gathering to help in any way they could, then swiftly vanishing afterwards. New Yorkers always need to be urgently elsewhere. Smith then gives thought to the victims 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov’s act of terror.
None of us deserve to be killed in the street. We are a multiplicity of humans in an elastic social arrangement that can be stretched in many directions. It’s not broken yet. I have no idea if it will break soon – but its not broken yet. And here comes the rain, clearing the streets, for an hour maybe, even for a whole afternoon. We’ll be back out tomorrow.
Feature Image Via The Times