It's been three days since the Sunoco Incident. They--that is, the state and city governments and thus the media--are saying it wasn't terrorism per se, but an attempt to steal the oil. At least, that's the story right now--who knows? But I swear to god, people are stupid--as baltpiker pointed out, the refineries have been under guard for months now. There was no way they'd get away with it. The identities of the thieves haven't been released, and that's making me suspicious. On the other hand, I guess if it was terrorism, they'd have struck at a time when they could get mass casualties, and not at five in the morning.
I went downtown today, in part because I'm a fool and in part because I'm an ex-journalism student. Den has a lot of work to get through, though, so he stayed behind.
So I hopped the R5 from Lansdale down to Market East. There was a huge backup getting off because in order to leave the platform you now have to go through metal detectors and pass bomb-sniffing dogs and whatnot. So even if the Sunoco job wasn't terrorism, the cops aren't taking any chances.
I hate to say it, I can't blame 'em.
There are National Guard troops in the city now; not just down at the refinery, but posted outside Independence Hall, outside (and in the courtyard of) City Hall, down at the Stock Exchange--you get the idea. Let's face it--if people are nuts enough to attack an oil refinery, what's to stop them from attacking anything else?
OK, I'm feeling a little paranoid these days.
As I said, some two hundred people died from the gas leak. The city's in mourning. This is my city--I grew up here as a kid, I lived here until the spring. My heart is still here. And maybe that's why I felt like I had to come down.
There was a tent set up in the park next to the Constitution Center. Volunteers I asked what they needed--"Anything. Put together food packages, first aid kits. Head down to Graduate [Hospital], they could use some volunteers."
"What about down in South Philly?"
"You don't wanna go down there. Besides, only the National Guard is going down there."
"Why the hell do you think? Look, you wanna help or not?"
"Yeah, I do. What can I do?"
So they set me to putting together food packages. Canned goods, mac & cheese, the usual food drive stuff. What amazes me--and encourages me--is that people, despite their resources being tight, are giving.
Around noon, they let us take a break, so I headed over to the Reading Terminal for some lunch. Normally (or at least normally being six months ago) the place is packed, every day of the week--but now, well, not so much. Oh, there were still folks getting lunch, mostly in suits, but the crowds definitely weren't there.
So anyway, I sat and had spinach pie at the Middle Eastern place, and a pretzel from the Amish pretzel guys. I knew I was spending a lot of money--money we need--but I was famished, and it'd been a long time since I'd had anything special like that. And, I don't know, I figure the sellers need the money too.
I also bought some fish and packed it in ice. I haven't had fresh fish in months--you just don't find it for a reasonable price up in the suburbs anymore. I admit, I'd packed a soft-vinyl cooler just for this. There's nothing wrong with killing two birds with one stone.
After lunch, I headed back to the volunteer station. Talked with some other people--a lot who lived in town, but a few from the suburbs who came down on the trains like me. (I'll get to what we talked about in another post.)
So anyway, I called it a day around 6:30 and tried to get on a train. Well, stupid move, because the station was packed, and I ended up sitting for an hour and a half waiting for a chance to get on a train. Den offered to pick me up in the car, but I told him not to waste the gas. I did call him when I was near the station, though, and he walked me home.
God, I'm exhausted. Anyway, this is a really abbreviated version of what happened. I'll post more later.