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My New York, Before and After September 11, 2011

Posted by cmfry in Politics.
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World Trade Centre Twin Towers New York

Image via Wikipedia

We came in for landing for what looked like a glorious late Summer’s day. After clearing through customs, and making my way out of the terminal at JFK, I had finally realised one of my dreams…

I was in New York!

With 12 hours to kill till my connecting flight, I decided to go tour as much of the city as best I could. I wanted to go walk in Times Square, to see the theatres on Broadway, to sit in Central Park where so many of my favorite artists had performed.

Standing at Jamaica Station, I had to decide whether to do all that, or go to the World Trade Centre and see the curvature of the Earth, which I’ve never seen before. As I knew I had another 12 hours connecting time on my return home, I decided I would cap my first U.S. visit with that glorious view.

And walking through all those world renowned landmarks, the city lived up to my expectation of the buzz being electric! It truly felt like a city that doesn’t sleep, and it wasn’t just the jetlag talking! Everybody was constantly on the move, yet they were kind enough to help me with directions, and someone even picked up my camera lens cover. Being a Capetonian, and having despised the odd tourist in my time, I got a sheepish insight into what it is to be a wide-eyed tourist in a foreign city! 

After taking in the Virgin Megastore and Times Square, I sat down in the awesome beauty that is Central Park. Eating my very first chilli dog, Iwatched 2 production crews from Broadway shows take each other on at a game of softball. Oh, I felt like I was in heaven!

So much so that I lost complete track of time! In the mad dash to the airport to catch my flight, I vowed to do the World Trade Centre as a parting shot to what started out as a dream holiday. As my flight (which I caught by the skin of my teeth, literally) took off, I got to see those towers in their splendour from my seat.

5 days later, it happened….

On my return, without having touched down, one could sense that something had irrevocably changed. My flight home was cancelled, and because I now no longer had a valid ticket, I was not even allowed near the terminal. Luckily, I had some friends in New Jersey, who happily directed me to their house where I arranged my new schedule home, and I crashed on their couch for the night.

The trip back into New York felt like I was part of a funeral procession. Suddenly, this city which had been so kind to me 3 weeks ago was scared to look me in the eye, just because I was a foreigner, and it was foreigners that had ripped its very soul from its body. As my bank had been implacated (wrongly, it turned out) in harbouring funds for terrorists, my account was frozen, and I had miscalculated the money I would have needed. So here was this foreigner, lugging a full bag, begging for money to get to the airport. Eventually, a kind soul offered me a lift to the airport. I can only imagine how courageous he must have been to open his car to someone he did not know, with a big bag, the contents of which could’ve been anything.

Inside the terminal, it just got worse. Because there was more than one change to my trip home, I was pulled aside and was interrogated thoroughly by customs officials who were as stoic as I had ever seen.

However, before they even started, I knew how this would end. One of them bluntly requested that a cavity search be done. I knew that to protest would surely mean I would not get home any time soon.

Eventually I got to my seat on my plane. As I sat down, as though my soul was ready to leave my body and never return, I wept. Openly, bitterly, unabatedly. The dear hostess must’ve known how much pain I was in, as she put a caring arm around me, and assured me that we were going home.

As we took off into the New York dusk, I vowed that one day I would return, and when I do, the New York that I arrived to would welcome me once again.

So, as Art Garfunkel put it:

New York, You’ve got money on your mind, and my words won’t make a dime’s worth a difference,

So here’s to you, New York.