Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Heart New York

I lived in NYC for nine years - three before the horror of 9/11, and six after.

That morning, ten years ago, I was teaching in a school a whole bunch of blocks uptown, in East Harlem.  From the front steps though, we could see the black smoke rising after the towers fell.  I remember huddling in my "office" (ie utility closet), trying to reach my parents on my cell phone as I heard fighter jets overhead, presumably securing the airspace.

In the immediate aftermath, some of the things I remember most... the smell of burning buildings and bodies that wafted uptown and through our bedroom window, the strange silence the next morning when the routine buzz of thousands of aircraft came to a screeching halt, and the hopeful "MISSING" posters plastered around the city - the kind you expect to see for a lost pet, not for thousands of doomed fellow New Yorkers.

Somehow, living through 9/11 in New York City made it so hard to leave, years later when it was clearly time to move on.  I felt some kind of solidarity with the city - like we had survived that brutal Tuesday together, just the two of us.

I haven't been able to bring myself to watch any anniversary 9/11 coverage.  A situation closer to home, or should I say my new home, is not only preoccupying me, but reminding me that tragedies happen in all sizes.  And whether they'll be remembered on an international scale or not, a loss is a loss, and it hurts no matter what.

Interestingly, an email in my inbox from Tory Burch yesterday reminded me of some of my more hopeful/innocent days in the city - the days before the ominous subway signs warning "if you see something, say something", the days before the sound of a low-flying jet sent a chill down your spine, and the days before walking by a NYC firehouse forced a lump in your throat.

In those days, I still lived on the Upper East Side, where I would routinely come across/step-on/step-over or otherwise notice the hopeful words of street artist James de la Vega....

Tory Burch collaborated with this very artist to create a line of accessories to benefit the Tory Burch Foundation...  

I got such a kick out of seeing the fruits of this collaboration between the casual, funky street artist I met one afternoon in East Harlem, and the hot-shot, Madison Ave. design darling of the moment!  Only in New York....

The accessories feature de la Vega's typically positive messages, like the one below, that I like to imagine stepping over that morning ten years ago...


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