11 Sep

Ten years ago, I had just moved from NY to the Poconos in Pennsylvania.  We were still only a couple of hours from NY, but it felt like across the country.  My stay in the city had been quite a culture shock for someone from Kentucky, but I had grown to love every noise, smell and bright light distraction.  I would hold my daughter’s hand as we pushed our way through Times Square crowds and worry the city might gobble up her up.  It never did.  Instead, it transformed her world and mine.

We would walk down to Central Park from the apartment on Park Avenue.  The park felt like a mirage in a desert of skyscrapers and traffic.  We would feed apples to the horses drawing the carriages for the tourists because no self-respecting New Yorker would ever ride on one.  We would walk and eat our lunch on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum.  Both intimidating and inviting, New York welcomed us as temporary residents.

Every weekend was an adventure.  We took ferries to the islands and explored the nooks and crannies the tourists would miss.  We saw off-Broadway plays and ballets on ice.  We would spend hours in Chinatown and cross over to Little Italy for gelato.  We walked miles in gardens and museums, soaking in the world outside of our own.  My daughter started kindergarten in New York and I began to think of it as home.

Moving from New York was heart wrenching.  I was trailing after the man I had followed to New York and he had decided we were moving to his parent’s home in Pennsylvania.  Two years had not been long enough in the city, and I didn’t want to move.  As a goodbye gesture to the city, we went to the World Trade Towers one Saturday to buy tickets to a Broadway play from a broker in the building and to eat ice cream in their shadow.  I remember thinking how funny it was that over the years in New York, I had driven by the towers several times, but I had never actually been there as a tourist.  

I was on a business phone call on September 11, 2001.  The man I was talking to suddenly seemed excitable.  He asked me if I heard a plane had flown into one of the towers.  I remember thinking it was a small plane and how horrible they had made such a mistake.  I remember standing in my bedroom, turning on the television, watching the smoke billow from the first tower and then there it was.  That second plane.  As it smoothly flew into the second tower, the explosion that followed, I knew for certain it was not a pilot error.  We, as a nation, were being attacked.

That morning is a blur of emotions and knowledge.  The pentagon was on fire, the towers were on fire and there was a plane missing over Pennsylvania.  Nothing and nowhere felt safe.  I held my daughter in my arms and vaguely explained to her about the planes flying into the towers.  I didn’t tell her about the horrific number of deaths.  I didn’t explain to her we were being attacked by terrorists.  That knowledge would come later.  The enormity of those attacks would come in our subsequent visits to New York, when we would drive by the place where those towers stood, now a huge hole in the earth.    

Ten years later, the feelings have not subsided.  This sadness over what human beings are capable of inflicting on each other.  But life goes on.  The city recovers and embraces every new person who dares venture there.  The skyline is forever changed, but the spirit of what it stands for never will.  Because New York City does represent what is the best in all of us.  That you can have a dream and make it come true.  That you can leave your doorstep and explore the world and it will make a better you.  That none of us are immune from tragedy in our lives, but we endure.  We get up in the morning and are hopeful in the light of a brand new day.  

That day instilled in me one thing.  When faced with my ultimate demise, I want those seconds or minutes before I leave this earth to be filled snapshots of  happiness and joy.  I want to explore and soak it all in.  This world is a wonder to behold, this life an amazing collection of moments.  No amount of hatred or vitriol can take that away from any of us.

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