As we drove over the Varizano Bridge I peered out of the window and saw a light resting faintly in the New York City sky. It was a foggy night so the bright beams that now project in the sky as a tribute to those that lost their lives on Sept. 11. appeared as a halo floating over the city.
I have been to New York since the attacks, but this time seemed somehow different. As I looked out the window I thought back to where I was when I found out about the attacks. The fear, the sadness and the confusion came rushing back. Everyone in the car was talking, but I was fixated on this faint light.
As the bridge curved my view became clearer and my heart grew heavier with sadness. I said a prayer and then it was gone. Out of sight, but not out of mind.
I have read about them in the paper, I have seen the e-mails and the news reports, but actually seeing the lights up in the night sky gave me a feeling like no other.
Bright and early the next morning I woke up to attend my very first St. Patty’s day parade in New York City still having fresh in my mind what I had seen the night before. All week I had wondered what it would be like. How all of the people who would be attending and marching in the parade felt about being out in the open parading the streets of a city that was once filled with debris, smoke and mass hysteria.
As the train got closer and closer to the city the crowd got louder and louder and the people piled in more and more at every stop. Walking through the halls of the train station I saw again as I had seen before the memorials that wallpapered the once bare white cinderblock walls. I thought to myself, as I strolled through, about how many things in life seem to have such an effect when you first see it and then after a while it becomes a normality. This was not a normality. It never will be.
I climbed the stairs of Penn Station and I was there on the streets of New York once again. The air was brisk, but perfect for a parade. I have never seen so many police and firemen in my entire life. I wanted to hug them all. They passed me on the street in groups smiling saying hi, chatting with one another. I thought to myself how practically every person I would see that day had lost someone they love just six short months ago.
The parade began and as I walked down 45th Street. I was parallel to the firemen marching, I on the sidewalk, they on the street. I have never gotten chills so many times in my entire life in just one 24-hour period. The men and women walked with grace in their crisp navy uniforms. The crowd stood and watched them in awe, cheering as though the home team had just won the championship.
At one point I heard a helicopter up above and immediately shot my head up to the sky. I looked around to see if anyone else had done the same. Few did. At that moment I realized that this was not a city that lived in fear. I realized that these were not people who feared walking down the street. This city is a family and they stand together, tall and proud.