New York Magazine

The Return of Fear

AS THE VIRUS ROLLED in like an invisible, toxic fog, I watched apartment buildings go semi-dark and families pack up SUVs and drive off into the countryside. With planes empty and borders closed, the flow of new arrivals who refresh New York has stopped. Those who could do so made a run for it; the rest are still bravely going to work or stowing themselves out of sight. On warm days, the parks feel distressingly overpopulated, but only because each person now requires an enlarged bubble of personal space. Looking out my living-room window, I see terror saunter down vacant streets, reclaiming a city that had forgotten how to fear. I wonder how long the feeling will linger.

Most of those people will return, even if the sense of threat never entirely lifts. New Yorkers pride themselves on shrugging off risk. A pall of anxiety descended after 9/11, and some cubicle-and-subway dwellers suddenly discovered a fondness for Vermont. But before long, Penn Station was packed again, and the heavily armed soldiers became part of the décor. Terrorism lost its power to terrorize. In 2017, a man drove a truck down a bike path along the Hudson River, leaving a trail of bodies. A few hours later and a few blocks away, the Halloween Parade went ahead as planned.

This feels different, though. COVID-19 is not an event but a drawn-out shock streaked with moments of normalcy. An errand to buy milk, a cherry tree that blooms on schedule—these holdovers coexist impossibly with the sense that our lives have irreversibly changed. The medical emergency will end one day. The hospital tents in Central Park will be dismantled like a melancholy circus. Friends will embrace again. And yet it’s difficult to grasp what kind of city the epidemic will leave behind. The future rests on an unanswerable riddle: When will New York feel safe enough for people to return, visit, move here, and stay, or for the old to leave their apartments?

New York has been a scary place for most of the past 400 years. Fire, flood, attack, crime, rebellion, drugs, and disease have shaped it. I find that an oddly reassuring thought, because all through its litany of misfortunes and bouts of exodus, the city’s magnetic force field has strengthened. Fear and pain are crucial human responses—without them, we die. At every desperate juncture, New York has grown and transformed as it healed. When epidemics struck congested neighborhoods, the wealthy lit

Vous lisez un aperçu, inscrivez-vous pour en lire plus.

Plus de New York Magazine

New York Magazine2 min de lecture
The Met
What brought you to the Met today? My husband’s 49th birthday. What else are you going to do for someone’s birthday right now? He’s an art teacher, so I guess some people would say it’s a corny pick, but we love the Met. It means the world to me. I’v
New York Magazine27 min de lecturePolitics
Injured?
TEVE BARNES WAS FURIOUS. Over the past 25 years, he had helped turn a small-time Buffalo personal-injury law firm into a New York institution, one with eye-popping profits and an empire of advertisements so widespread you wondered if everyone who got
New York Magazine5 min de lecture
Coastal Elites Is As Distanced As Its Subjects
COASTAL ELITES HBO. STREAMING NOW. ONE OF THE HUNDRED REASONs this short, horrifying coronavirus moment has felt so long culturally is that its artistic questions don’t seem to change or advance. What makes something “filmed theater” as opposed to “