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Ich Bin Ein New Yorker By: Jennifer Kabbany
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, December 05, 2001

I NEVER CARED MUCH FOR NEW YORK CITY. As someone who grew up in Southern California, it was always a far-away land with big buildings and rude people. Later in life I made my gratuitous pit stops there, confirming what I already knew too fast-paced, too crowded and too loud.

But this past weekend I had experiences which changed my mind.

I took a red-eye Thursday night in what began as a trip to pay my respects and spend some cash in the town, my way of giving to the wounded metropolis. Immediately upon arrival I felt a new respect and admiration for the locals, and thus my patience increased. All of a sudden I didn’t mind so much that I couldn’t walk 10 feet without bumping into a minimum of three people.

I spent Friday night enjoying the company of friends and eating dinner at the fabulous 116-year-old steakhouse Keens, reminding me that the best restaurants in the country are indeed found in New York City. Walking home I enjoyed the elaborate Macy’s Christmas window displays. I went to bed listening to the sounds of horns blaring and sirens moaning, and I felt myself somewhat enjoying the tunes acclimating to the city that never sleeps.

After spending Saturday morning in my cozy hotel room, it was time to visit the World Trade Center.

The minute I set eyes on the black-charred rubble all the sorrow and disbelief I felt on Sept. 11 once again overwhelmed me. A close friend of my family, whose brother is a NYC fireman, aptly calls the site "the pile." I garnered after talking with locals that the area is 20 times more tolerable than it was a month or so ago, when the gray dust and stench and death still lingered everywhere.

As I walked around the blocked-off sections of the wreckage my sadness grew. Each new angle seemed worse than the other, until I turned the corner next to an abandoned Embassy Suites and BAM the clearest view of the ruins was right before my eyes. I did not speak I just prayed, and thought of all those people who were killed, the mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers.

When I had had enough I started to walk away. I was with a close friend and we didn’t say much as we slowly headed back, deep in thought. As we continued I tried to shake the sadness, but I didn’t have it in me to cheer up. And then I saw it.

It was very small at first, fuzzy, looked like another skyscraper in the distance. But it was standing alone and I knew what it was The Statue of Liberty. The closer I got to the edge of the Manhattan peninsula the better my view of Lady Liberty became. More importantly, the higher my spirits rose.

In fact, when I finally reached the railing that kept me from falling into the Hudson River I couldn’t help but smile and stare at the big symbol of American freedom standing tall and proud. I felt my sorrow slip away. It was replaced with hope and faith.

As I walked back to the Chambers Street subway station I had another epiphany. I looked back at the WTC wreckage one last time, and while I stared I saw between the skyline a commercial plane flying high, directly over my view of the site. I smiled knowingly to myself.

When I flew back Sunday morning I snapped shot after shot of the city from the window of my airplane. I felt sad about leaving New York City is part of my home now.

My attitude about her has changed. New York City epitomizes America in a lot of ways strength, endurance, pride. America will overcome all its challenges just as New York City has picked up her broken pieces and is moving on. I am proud of the city and all its residents and am a better American for having visited.

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