To New York, With Love.
For me, today is a day of memories and emotions that, even 20 years later, still feel so raw and fresh. A day full of moments and pictures that are forever burned in my mind.
I can still see myself standing on that soccer field in Troy NY, looking up at a plane overhead. It had caught my attention like no plane had before. Maybe it was because it was flying fairly low, or maybe it was a premonition. The time was around 8:30am, and the date was September 11 2001. Less than 30 minutes later a hijacked commercial jet, American Airlines Flight 11, was driven into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. From the very moment I heard what had happened, I was convinced that the plane I had seen, and the one that hit the tower, were the same. When I later found out the plane’s flight path, confirming that it had in fact flown over that area, it only convinced me more. And I still believe it to this day.
Less than two weeks later, bypassing closed streets and skirting past police barricades, my Mom and I walked the 2 miles from Union Square to the corner of Greenwich St and Chambers St, where I stood in the rain a mere 3 blocks from the World Trade Center and literally saw the ruins at my feet. I will never forget the sights, the sounds, and the smells. There was dust and smoke in the air, debris all around me, paper and ash everywhere my feet stepped, men in hazmat suits cleaning in the park, and straight ahead of me was all that remained of the Twin Towers, a still smoldering mountain of rubble and steel. The smell was indescribable and the silence was deafening. There were no cars and basically no people on the street, just stillness. We heard two sirens go off, each time followed by an ambulance driving uptown that was accompanied by police escorts, presumably transporting recovered bodies to the hospital. The few people who were around were silent until a woman with a 6 or 7 year old girl came across the block. She stopped and began hanging up a missing person sign, and as she did her daughter called out "Daddy" and then asked if he was coming home from work soon. My heart sank and I felt sick to my stomach. In that moment I felt for myself the incredible pain of someone else's heartbreak.
That feeling, and that moment, will never leave me. None of that afternoon will. I will forever have a mental video in my head, and will always carry it and all of the emotions with me, tucked deep inside of my soul for safe keeping. I was forever changed that day, just as my city had been days earlier.
In 2019 I finally had the courage to return to that intersection. To stand exactly where I stood on that rainy day in 2001. This time there were no police barricades. There was no rubble. No debris. No burning pile just blocks in front of me. There were people everywhere. People not in hazmat suits. The park had been rebuilt, and cars and taxis filled the streets. The only thing that even resembled that day was the smoke coming from the construction straight ahead of me. For a moment it transported me back to that moment eighteen years before, but I was soon brought out of it by the sounds and sights of a city that was alive. When I looked at the lamp post where the woman had hung her missing person sign I looked up and saw One World Trade Center in the background. In a way it was so fitting; the juxtaposition of what remained from 2001 and what had been rebuilt. Still, conflicting emotions were taking over as I stood in that spot. I was overcome by pain as I remembered that moment that forever changed me years earlier, but was also full of the pride I felt as a New Yorker because of the resilience of my city. Standing in that exact place where I had felt and seen the near death of my city, and then seeing it alive again. The feeling was indescribable, and the moment another that I will forever cherish. That I will never forget. It changed me too, and I will think of it every September 11th from now until eternity.
New York, I love you. I have loved you since my little toddler feet stepped onto your concrete streets, and I will love you until the day I die. From day one I have always felt that you were my own. From the hustle and bustle, to the glitz and the glamour, the dirty streets and cloudy air, the wide eyed tourists and the jaded natives, to the history that is written in the ground, and the history that is sure to be made, you have always held my heart. Some people say you are dirty and gross, but I say they just don't know where to look to see the beauty; the sun rays bouncing off the skyscrapers on a beautiful summer day, the city lights turning on one by one as nightfall approaches, the absolutely stunning architecture, the rich history everywhere you go, the way you celebrate Christmas, wonders like the brachiosaurus in the lobby of The Museum of Natural History, and, of course, the eclectic cast of characters that call you home.
Your resilience and strength have always inspired me, but even more so post 9/11/01. It is a day I will never ever forget, and a day that changed me just as much as it changed you. New York, you will always be my favorite place on Earth. You will always be where I belong. Where my creativity thrives. Where I feel whole and can be 100% myself. Where my heart and soul align. And no matter how many miles are between us, you will always be my home.
- ALL LOVE -