A Decade Later: Thank You New York
New York City isn't a geographic location that I formally address as "home." My love for New York is like my love for a friend. New York City is a living, breathing soul that has given me more than I can possibly ever give to it. Being in California on the anniversary of 9/11 is painful. I feel guilty. I feel that I should be in my city, grieving – grieving with New Yorkers. I feel as if I have betrayed the one thing I love the most, the one thing I protect the most. As I sit here in Los Angeles, thousands of miles away from home, I cannot help but feel alone. Plenty can empathize and remember 9/11 as a day that the United States was attacked, but few re-live 9/11 as a day that "home" was attacked. This is not a typical recount of an experience on 9/11, this is a "Thank You" to a city that has taught me to love.
On 9/11/2001 I was a wide-eyed freshman in high school in New York.On 9/11/2011 I am a wide-eyed freshman in graduate school in California. A week before 9/11, I became a New York City tourist. The skyline was mundane to me. It was an image as common as seeing the moon shine at night. But this night was different. I sat in the backseat driving around New York City landmarks; the hustle and bustle of Times Square, the red, white and blue glowing on the Empire State building, the majestic poise of the Statue of Liberty. As we stopped in front of the Towers, they truly had never shone so bright. They did, I had just never noticed. They were never ending. Where the clouds met their silver glow left me in wonderment. Looking back as we drove over the Brooklyn Bridge, the skyline finally hit me. This was MY city. Thank you, New York, for giving me my everlasting image of the skyline.
I woke up on September 11th feeling unusually optimistic. Perhaps it was in excitement; perhaps it was the crisp pre-Autumn musk. Hearing that "a plane just flew into the World Trade Center," just didn't feel real. What a mere two hours earlier was a beautiful day became the most tragic. It was a real possibility that my family was at the Towers that day. My school went into lockdown mode. You could see the debris form the roof. As I rushed home all I could do was pray. Pray that my family was ok. Pray that New York was okay. Walking into my house and seeing footage of a plane flying through the Towers was like watching a murder. I hugged my family but didn't process my movements. I didn't process how thankful I was that no one went to Manhattan that day. I didn't process what I was seeing. It was a state of utter shock that leaves you paralyzed. Thank you, New York, for teaching me the value of life.
While many people all over the country can hurt and empathize with those lost at 9/11, many people do not actually know people that were lost. While many people can send money to the firefighters cleaning up Ground Zero, many people do not know a firefighter cleaning up Ground Zero. While many people can say they hurt for New York, many people cannot say they bleed for New York. Thank you, New York, for revealing true New Yorkers.
I always imagined what the 10th anniversary of 9/11 would be like. It felt so far away, another lifetime. Now that its here, all that has changed is my love for the city that took me in when I had nothing and made my wildest dreams come true. Experiencing 9/11 as a freshman in high school was the beginning of my love affair with New York City. A decade later, my love affair grows more passionate than ever. I have become wiser, have experienced tragedy, and have grown up amidst one of the most politically challenging times in the history of the United States. Yet in these past 10 years, the most important thing I have learned is to love my "home." Thank you, New York, for making me a true New Yorker.
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