Sunday, 11 September 2016

On this day each year...

So, 15 years ago 9/11 happened.  Cleverer people than me have written on the political/environmental/socio-economic impact of  that horrific day.  So I will let them continue to do so.
This is my take on how it affected me.  Egotistical maybe, and millions of people were affected far more directly than me, but New York is a place I love, I have since the second I set foot off the bus at the Port Authority bus terminal in October of 2000.

I had just finished university, felt like I deserved a treat, took myself off to a hostel in Manhattan for nearly a week, by myself.  I flew into JFK, arriving in the early evening, jumped on my bus and headed off into the city. We drove across the bottom end of Times Square, and as I looked out of the window, I just felt at home.  Stepping off the bus I just got this feeling, like a calm coming over me, like I was where I belonged.

Over the course of that week, I explored the entire city, just me, my headphones and a well battered wallet.  I took the Staten Island ferry, I saw movies in Times Square, I wandered Central Park, I bought comics in St. Mark’s Place, I inhaled the city.  It was during this week I truly fell in love with New York.

I spent the following summer, of 2001 in Philadelphia, working in a summer camp.  It included a few visits to New York, including a long weekend at the start with an old schoolfriend of mine.   After travelling down to Tennessee to attend a wedding, I took the train back to Manhattan.  It took 19hrs non stop, worth it to spend another afternoon in the city.   I just had time to squeeze in a trip to a couple record shops, then I dragged my luggage to the AMC cinema just off Times Square, grabbed some Milk Duds and relaxed with Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back before flying home.
We scrub up ok!

4 days later I got off the bus in York on my way to work to see a crowd of people standing outside an electronics shop, watching the TV screens.  I saw the towers, I saw the smoke, but I didn’t really take it in until later. The city I had just left, the city I loved was in chaos.  I spent the next two days, just like the rest of the world, in shock, but also awaiting any news of the couple of friends who I knew had been in the area.  Eventually I got word that they were okay, but one had been walking towards the WTC and got covered in dust, and the other who was on a plane at JFK about to fly back to South Africa.  Obviously, they didn’t fly, but in a pre-facebook world, getting information was hard.

On the Staten Island Ferry
The following year I returned to Philadelphia for the summer.  I flew straight into Philly that time so no NYC stopover.  A couple of weeks in, we took the kids on a Saturday day trip in, to see a Broadway show.  We drove down past Ground Zero on a giant yellow school bus.  I have genuinely never seen a group of 11-15 year olds show so much respect, each of them falling silent as we went past. I’ve never been more proud of my camp kids.

Maybe I shouldn't have wished to be big!
In the years since, I have returned several times, and have always, always felt welcome in New York, whether I was in a bakery in Queens or buying T-shirts in the HBO shop.  I have so shown my mum, my sisters, my then girlfriend, my now wife all my favourite spots, from  the obvious (FAO Schwartz) to the less well known (SouthStreet Seaport), from the beautiful (Washington Square Park) to the mundane (Queens Boulevard) and never felt more at home than on the streets that great city.
While I can’t claim to have been physically affected, every year I load up my NYC playlist, raise a toast and shed a little tear for that city I love. 

Do you know what? I really do Heart NY.

No comments:

Post a Comment