For a foreigner who visits New York City, population heterogeneity is among the most striking features. There is also something futuristic about what one sees: A conglomerate of extreme opposites, somehow “functioning” together, bound by unannounced and apparently complex rules. Throwing a rock into such pond promises extreme reverberation, but also a somewhat better, though forced and transient, synchrony of waves and reactions.
For a time, following 9/11, one is told, hearts and minds in New York City became closer. Furthermore, since then “the City has changed,” acknowledge savvy New Yorkers, and cite as a proof the blackout night of August 14, 2003, in which people “were just out of themselves,” offering help and “acting like true community.” From anecdotes of ice-cream being given away by merchants on the streets, one can also appraise the extent to which charity, in New York, is typically combined with practicality. These will have melted anyhow, by the next morning.
Notwithstanding, in this book, the lessons of September 11, 2001, are mainly ones of “trauma,” “disaster” and “decline in mental health.” This is surprising, given the sense of common fate that should be hovering over the city since – or has it gone? Arguably, it is not the role of mental health specialists to identify resiliency – but rather to treat the diseased. To ignore it, however, is certainly not a good practice.
Additionally, this book highlights the presence of threat, fear, and post-traumatic symptoms, and one wonders what, indeed, was the relative part of loss, and by extension whether, beyond narrating the story of a “trauma,” mental health professionals actually have the vocabulary that properly expresses what has been, and is regularly being observed under duress.