A helicopter buzzes overhead. My news-feed reports that the nearby Fort Hamilton Army Base is firing cannons. But an hour after Obama’s speech, the streets of Bay Ridge are so desolate that the minivans are running red lights—in celebration, surely, of Osama bin Laden’s death.
Bay Ridge has the second highest level of union membership in Brooklyn, presumably thanks to its high concentration of police officers and firefighters; it seems like an inordinate number of side streets here have been rechristened 9/11 Memorial Ways, renamed after a local resident lost in the line of duty that day. The neighborhood also has one of the largest and oldest Middle Eastern communities in the borough.
On Third Avenue, the calm starts to crack around the Salty Dog, a fireman’s bar where a stone plaque commemorating 9/11 is set into the sidewalk. American-flag pennants already surround the entrance; the bar had hosted its fundraiser for the Bay Ridge Memorial Day Parade this evening. A mob of four occupies the street in front; one smashes a glass bottle and shouts, “fuck yeah!” Another waves a public school auditorium-sized flag at the passing cars. When a garbage truck speeds by, the sanitation worker hanging off the back asks, “we got him?”
“We got him,” the flag waver answers.
“We got him,” the garbage man repeats.
A drunk stumbles out of the bar and whips my girlfriend with a rolled-up t-shirt in a locker-room show of solidarity. “Fuck yeah,” he says.
Down Third Avenue, most of the other bars are sparsely populated. Two beer drinkers in the Yellow Hook Grille smile as “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” trickles out into the street. Three Jolly Pigeons seems as empty as on any other Sunday night. “A lot of crazies out tonight,” the bartender says. “A lot of people off their meds.” Four televisions show the extra-innings Mets game. On one TV, on the back wall, the news plays, muted, Obama’s silent, solemn image staring out as “Get Together” blasts from the overhead speakers. Then ABC goes back to its regularly scheduled Grey’s Anatomy, and a drunk guy, laughing, keeps telling us, “fuck him, fuck him hard, fuck that fucking cocksucker, fuck him.”
Hours later, on the now-relaxed streets outside Salty Dog, a man who announces himself as a homeless vet asks for change.
“You hear about bin Laden?”
“Yeah,” we say.
“God bless America.”