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Charleston native finds refuge in her hometown

 Karen Greenblatt doesn't need an anniversary to remind her of Sept. 11 in New York City. She lived it, and lives with it every day.  Standing there amid the helpless crowd outside her Soho apartment in Lower Manhattan, she watched as the carnage unfolded.  "Everything seemed to slow down," she recalled recently. "People were crying and screaming. One woman was down on her knees sobbing. It was dreamlike.  "When we realized that what we thought were debris falling from the top floors were really people, the noises the people around me made ... You never imagine that people can sound like that. I never want to hear it again."  She couldn't get to Charleston fast enough. 
 A year later, she's still here, living in the South Hills house where she was raised, but feeling the lasting pull of the city of her dreams.   She first returned about 2 1/2 years ago, relinquishing her full-time job as a photography director (she produces photo shoots for advertisements) so she could care for her ailing father. 
 She continued her job on a freelance basis, often traveling back to New York or other cities to follow through with the shoots.  Her father died in 2000, and she resumed her life in the big city, but held on to her Charleston home.  She's glad she did.
  "I've been a New Yorker for so many years, but [after the attacks] I couldn't wait to get back to Charleston," she said. "I was thrilled to be here. Small-town, USA, here I come! It was fantastic."  There was a nervousness that had settled upon her that she associated with New York. It took her months to come to terms with what she had witnessed.  Her parents were born and raised in New York City, and moved to Charleston shortly after Greenblatt was born. From the time she was 4 and took her first trip to the Big Apple, the city took on magical proportions for Greenblatt.  She knew that she would live there someday ... and she will again.  "Ultimately, I think I will go back to live full time," she said. "Probably in the not-too-distant future. But this has been a great refuge."  It's a different New York to which she will return, however.  "No matter how many times I flew into New York, when the plane banked toward the airport and you could see the skyline, I always had this swell in my chest," she said. "Now, when I see that same view, my heart sort of drops. The fantasy city of my childhood is kind of ruined.  "I'm hoping that fantasy feeling will come back some day."  To contact staff writer Robert J. Byers, use e-mail or call 348-1236.  
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