Monday, February 6, 2012


A little something I wrote last year.

I arrived in New York City at 4:30 AM on September 11, 2011. It was the tenth anniversary of the attacks and I wanted to spend the day with the people there. I had jumped on the midnight bus from Boston and, sporadically sleeping on the way, traveled through the night. Since I had never gone to New York by myself before and especially since I never had to navigate the massive, labyrinthine island on my own, it was kind of daunting.

I got off the bus and looked down a number of dark streets. It was amazing to me how much activity there was at 4:30 in the morning on a Sunday. There were as many people and cars around as one would expect at a much earlier hour in a different locale. I didn't know where I was, I didn't have a map, and I didn't care. I was in no rush to be anywhere. I walked in one direction that seemed to be bathed in a strange, distant blue glow. After a few minutes of walking towards the light, I arrived at Times Square, which I had never seen before. This Blade Runner esque environment was full of neon signs that glowed brightly and towered over the few people that were meandering about. I wanted to get to Lower Manhattan for that morning's memorial to the attacks, so I started walking south. What looked like a short distance soon proved to be an extremely long distance.

As I walked, the sky got lighter. By the time I reached Lower Manhattan, the sun was just coming up over the horizon. It was early but there were already huge crowds of people there. The police had fenced off several blocks because the president was making a speech, so we couldn't get anywhere near him. We could hear him, however. He spoke about the events of a decade earlier and the impact they had on the people of the city and the country. The memorial itself wasn't limited to that area; it seemed like most of the people who live there or have businesses in that district had set up their own smaller memorials, each one touching in its own way. Churches lined their gates with peace flags. The collective exuded a lot of power.

For the rest of the day I walked around New York. I was aimless and without a map, learning my way around as I went. I walked through Zucotti Park before it was occupied and before most people knew it existed, including myself. I walked through Wall Street and was surprised at how small and plain-looking the stock exchange was. I walked up and down Manhattan, stopping at Central Park at one end and the ocean at the other end.

All along the way I stopped and talked to various people. One thing that was constant was the lack of fear. There were police everywhere, because the city had uncovered numerous threats. Between the date, the memorial, and the president visiting, there was a high probability of someone setting off a car bomb somewhere. Yet despite all of this, the people of New York seemed to be completely without fear. The newspaper covers seemed to promote as much "go inside, the boogeymen are coming" as they could, but the people responded by shrugging their shoulders, visiting the memorials, and paying their respects. The people of New York really have no fear.

In the afternoon I went to the wharf and spent $22 to hop on a speedboat with a shark painted on it. I can't swim and I normally avoid water under most circumstances unless I have a really good reason to be in it. Perhaps channeling the spirit of the New Yorkers I'd been talking to, I decided to sit right up at the front of the shark boat. It took off at high speed and my heart almost jumped out of my chest. The boat sped around the harbor and being up at the front felt as close to flight as anything I've done. It circled the whole of the New York harbor as I felt wave after wave of awe for the place. As the boat went past the Brooklyn Bridge I started to wonder why anyone would want to destroy any of this.

By the time evening arrived I walked down to the World Trade Center site to see the new World Trade Center One that was being built. At that very spot, a huge crowd had gathered to look at the new tower. In the nearby park, roughly 3000 person-sized flags had been put up to represent the people lost in the attacks. 3000 doesn't seem like a huge number until you see it embodied like this. The flags formed a forest of sorts that seemed to go on as far as you could see.  There were many other people walking through there, but despite this it was quiet. One of the few places in the city that was, at that time. For the most part, the only sound was the wind rustling.
I returned to the nearby site of the destruction. At around 8 PM they turned on the light pillars that represented the two fallen towers, now redesigned and more powerful than ever. The lights beamed upwards and collided with the low clouds overhead. It was a foggy night. Crowds of people gathered to stare at these two pillars, and there were few dry eyes to be found. Numerous small creatures flew through the beams and were lit up as they did. I don't know if they were birds or insects, but they looked like fireflies zipping back and forth.

The light pillars hovered like ghosts. I stood there for a long time.



1 comment:

  1. It was pretty good! Although you just kind of kick your reader off a concluding thoughts, it feels unfinished.