The day after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, it was a classic September day - warm, with golden sunshine, blue above and a breeze that hinted of fall. In one Brooklyn neighborhood, everyone seemed drawn to the park. As if by instinct, they sought the comfort of community and of nature.
People walked quietly by themselves or in pairs. Parents sat on the grass talking while their kids ran around or played ball. "It feels like a town square," someone said.
People talked of the horror they had witnessed from their rooftops and windows. They recounted close calls, what they had done that day, how they had walked home over the bridge.
They shared their grief and fear and shock. They traded information about what people could do to help. As they learned of who in the community were missing and dead, their pain and sadness deepened.
For many people, the meadows, the encircling trees, the sound of the wind in the leaves, provided some spiritual solace.
As the Project for Public Spaces noted on its website, throughout the city, friends and strangers gathered to mourn and comfort one another in the public parks - in Union Square, Washington Square, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and undoubtedly wherever else there were neighborhood parks or community gardens.
New York has the reputation of a hurried city, where people are too busy to make connections. But if anything could characterize the aftermath of this unspeakable tragedy, it has been the coming together of neighbors. The events of the past week make us value even more the public places that draw us together, and the parks that give us contact with nature for consolation and contemplation.
Anne Schwartz is a freelance writer specializing in environmental issues. Previously, she was the editor of the Audubon Activist, a news journal for environmental action published by the National Audubon Society, and an editor at The New York Botanical Garden.