Moving forward, thinking back
(Page 4 of 4)
In his youth, Cowart was active in the Presbyterian Church, as an adult in the Episcopal, but that involvement rarely guided his personal choices, or his choices of friends. It was the ecumenical nature of the ground-zero effort that perhaps changed Cowart the most. Hearing "construction guys having conversations that had more spiritual strength and power, more ability to comfort people, than someone standing in a pulpit with a PhD in theology" undid his need for the organized church. He's now exploring Buddhism and other traditions less familiar to him.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
These days, he says, there's some distance between him and old friends who say they're "not spiritual people." In new friends, he's drawn to those unashamed of their spiritual lives. Though he doesn't want to hang onto the past, Cowart says, that's his way of keeping the spirit of ground zero alive.
- Mary Wiltenburg
She has worked her way back downtown, back into an apartment she first picked in early 2000 for its proximity to that late, great landmark on lower Manhattan - the place from which she would ultimately run four small financial firms.
For Ariel Goodman, a lot has changed besides the twin-towers view that she had when she last lived at Battery Park City.
Ms. Goodman fled the residential complex in a dark storm of ash on Sept. 11, 2001. Within months she had overridden her strong preference for privacy and cast herself as a full-blown advocate, focusing her energy on the plight of those survivors whose painstakingly built professional worlds had - like hers - been erased.
A year ago Goodman spent her days chasing forms, walking from one government-agency office to the next from her temporary Midtown base, her companies just marking time, her personal life on hold.
Today, she says, she's still devoting only about 25 percent of her waking hours to her mutual-fund and advisory work, working from home. She remains active in From the Ground Up, the nonprofit advocacy group she helped found. But most of the time Goodman is "consumed" with mopping up from her own Sept. 11 losses.
"It's hard to make decisions, to make plans, the way things drag out," she says. By "things" Goodman means practically every area in which her life intersects with bureaucracy in all its forms.
"I finally settled with my insurance company, for 20 cents on the dollar, about six weeks ago," she says. She's unsatisfied with the "rush job" she says the Environmental Protection Agency did in cleaning her downtown apartment in April - a full four months after she moved back in.
Get Goodman going on the work of just about any federal or city agencyand she sounds like someone who's running for officeon a reformer's platform. (She has no immediate plans to try politics.)
"If you look at the way they present the statistics, they'll say 'Oh, well, 80 percent of the people want to bury the West Side Highway.' And if you look at how many [of those polled] are really stakeholders - people who really live and work down there - it's less than 30 percent." Goodman is deeply concerned about her small-business community.
"Two years out, this is the worst time for us," she says. Loans from the Small Business Association, against which many business owners put up homes as collateral, have come due. Aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, generally good for 18 months, has ended. "Now you're going to see people pushed to the brink," she says.
Still, she also sees bright spots. A restaurant near her place, closed for 25 months, is set to reopen. And work at the World Trade Center site gives her hope. "I'm dying for something to go back up there," she says. "I wish it was the original towers, built bigger and better."
And there are signs of a real life for Goodman herself. She went on her first vacation in years, to Russia, in July. "I took a ton of tours," she says. "It really made me feel feel happy and alive."
- Clayton Collins