Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember

"Over the great bridge, with sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world." F. Scott Fitzgerald

It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years. It seems like a lifetime ago...I guess in a lot of ways, it really was. I've moved twice (first half-way across the country and then to a whole new country). But no matter where I am living or what I am doing, every year when this day comes around, I always stop and remember.

I imagine it's the same for people who were living during the Pearl Harbor attacks. The fact that there could be a terrorist attack, on American soil, is unthinkable. We're lucky, though-- no foreign war has been fought on American soil since the Mexican American War (though that was only because Texas became a state during the War); and we are privileged to live in a place where there isn't fear of daily bombings or genocide or constant threat of terrorist attacks. Well, for the most part at least.

I've written about that day before; it's still not one that I like to dwell on and I still can't really watch the coverage or the specials or the memorials. Even ten years later it's too raw. So instead I thought I'd touch on the days after the attack-- how the city slowed down; How everyone banded together. It was remarkable, really. In a city where you keep mostly to yourself, you don't make eye contact, and you certainly don't talk to strangers, it was the complete opposite. People were kind to one another-- exchanging smiles, words of condolence or lending a helping hand. The donations were overwhelming-- money, food, clothes, offers of housing, cell phones. I, with a co-worker, delivered boxes and boxes of food and clothes to a salvation army center downtown where hundreds of volunteers were cooking meals for the emergency workers assembled at "Ground Zero" and providing a place to rest. And the volunteers-- they came in droves. So many volunteers that they had to turn us away. From around the country-- from around the world. It was amazing, really, to see how quickly everything mobilized. But it was the City's emergency services first and foremost that were incredible. I've never seen a force that big (40,000 police officers alone) assemble so effortlessly and in such a coordinated way. I think as laymen, we all knew it wouldn't last... that as the weeks went on, we'd eventually get caught back up in the hustle and bustle that is NYC. But for that brief time we were united... and for those there that day-- and I think every American who lived through that day, deep down, we always will be.

I wrote this passage five years ago, and I feel very much the same today. New York is something that gets into your blood and takes over your consciousness. If you're lucky enough to have lived there, no matter where you go or what you do, it will always be yours.
People think I'm crazy because I love NYC so much... "Why would you want to live there?" they ask. "It's so expensive, dirty... people are so mean." The reality? I can't believe that I ever left. It's the only place that I've ever felt was mine; a place where I belong; a place that I almost feel guilty for leaving. But in my heart, I know that I'll go back. Despite its faults, expense, general craziness, NYC is a place where so many people, of varied backgrounds, sensibilities, and, well, homes, come together to find a common ground; a place where all of these people who strive to be, and accomplish being, "individuals" can still come together and rejoice in being a single thing: A New Yorker.


M. L. Benedict said...

Thank you, Mikie.