|Murray Hill, NYC 39th St & 3rd Ave|
While getting off work in the West Village Thursday night at around 12:30 in the morning from a long night of shooting for a cable game show, I walked into a fireman who was clearing the path for his exiting fire truck that had just been revved up. Seeing that it had yet to accelerate, I proceeded walking to get to the other side of his driveway, as he gave me the look, "Are you really going to walk in front of my fire truck?" And I gave the counter look, "I'm going to walk in front of the fire truck, but don't anticipate delaying you at all."
(Yes, there is an expression for that). Sure enough, I walked by, not affecting anyone and the fire truck pulled out seconds later in my path.
After some waiting, I hopped on the 3rd avenue bus at East 4th street and buried my head into a book turning pages in between yawns, ready to go to bed.
When I got off at 38th street, I saw fire trucks and a small crowd spilled out from the local bars observing. I kept walking toward my apartment, but then thought maybe this would be worth a quick peak.
Upon arriving on the scene, I saw dark smoke pouring out of a coffee shop I had eaten at just last week (no residential building up above). There were maybe eight fire trucks with about 30 fire fighters. "Is there anybody inside?" I overheard a pedestrian ask a fireman, as I positioned myself in the front row of observers, as though I had something important inside.
I felt like I had walked right onto the set of a Spiderman movie. Okay, not just any Spiderman movie, but Spiderman #2, scene 14, where Peter Parker runs in after the Asian baby on the second floor. "We don't think so," he responded.
Firemen shuffled with equipment on the sidewalk--not one NYPD officer to be found--as drunks peaked out of the neighboring bars with a beer in one hand and their iPhone in the other. None of the firefighters had addressed the crowd which was increasingly moving closer to the smoke--they were, after all, too busy. Having just spent the past 12 hours myself deflecting annoying pedestrians coming up to us as we were shooting TV episodes, I suddenly realized how quickly I had switched roles.
Firemen began assembling ladders and climbing up almost in unison up to the roof into dark clouds. I took a picture and realized that we were just 24-hours away from the September 11th anniversary. Several bodies crawled up the ladder into dark smoke, disappearing from our sight.
|Murray Hill, 39th & 3rd|
The crowd began roaring in laughter. I realize this may sound strange, but I stand by their behavior. Perhaps it was out of nervousness of how close we were to the shattering pieces of glass with no authority to keep us back from our human inclination to observe. Perhaps the laughter was covering for our inability to offer any assistance--but just stand, watch and mobile upload pictures. Or maybe, simply because we were witnessing city officials intensely destroying private property while the coffee shop's owner was probably sound asleep somewhere miles away.
Then a fireman began welding a small medal gate that had gaurded the front door, erupting flames onto the bystanders. The laughing died down as everyone jolted several feet back to create a new front line for photo taking.
As the glass continued to shatter to the concrete, I remembered the times I had eaten at this coffee shop--sitting next to those very glass windows and probably at times rested the back of my head on that glass. I thought about all the people I had been with, looking out those windows onto the street. I thought about the morning waitress who would wake up in just five hours and be told she would not be working today. And the next day. And probably for at least a week, if not two.
The smoke began to clear up, but there was no sign of any of the fire fighters leaving the scene anytime soon.
It was impressive to witness firsthand the teamwork of the NYFD. Everyone not only came together calmly, but all knew exactly what to do and what their role would be.
In retrospect, even though I hadn't delayed the fire truck earlier in the night, maybe I should have waited the 17 seconds for it come out; if nothing else for good measure. I did end up seeing the same fire fighter again. He had approached the crowd, giving us the look, "Step back and stop taking pictures" and I gave the counter look, "I'm going to take one last picture and go home, and I promise I didn't follow you 40 blocks uptown," and walked away.