By Anant Nagpur
After watching the “We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert” recently on CNN to celebrate the city’s comeback from COVID, I realized how much I am in a New York state of mind. It made me think of where I was on September 11, 2001, 20 years ago when the most horrific incident took place in New York City.
I was at work when my friend phoned and told me I would never believe what was happening in my favourite city. I asked what he meant. He said there’d been a terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre, and one tower was already gone. I rushed to my boss’s office and told her. She called the office manager and he set up two televisions in the hall so everyone could watch. In no time, the hall was packed, everyone sitting or standing, all watching in absolute silence, not knowing what to say or whether to say anything at all – it had that kind of an impact on all of us. I called my mother to tell her to turn on the television. I told her the second tower would fall and next thing you knew it came down. How could this happen in North America and in New York City? It was impossible to understand. We were all just stunned.
I have gone to New York City regularly, often taking the train from Montreal. I try to stay at the same hotel, La Quinta in Manhattan, which is next to the Empire State Building. My habit was to go to the top of the twin towers during the day and to the top of the Empire State Building at night. I always walked from Central Park along Fifth Avenue to see all the fashion stores and stopped at Tiffany’s, which was made famous by Audrey Hepburn, and the Trump Tower. I’d go to the Rockefeller Center and watch the whole world go by. You can hear the languages from so many countries, and you may see a famous personality – I once saw Sidney Poitier.
When I went to New York in 1999 and 2000, the towers were still standing, and I could never have imagined they would be gone in 2001. On both visits, I went to the top – the view was outstanding, weather permitting. I wanted to go back to New York in 2019 to see the U.S. Open tennis, but it did not happen, and I could not make it in 2020 with the world turned inside out and upside down by COVID. I was planning again to go this year but postponed because travel rules and protocols at the tournament were still so uncertain.
When I visited in 2011, the first thing I wanted to see was where the twin towers had stood, and I was very surprised to see a new building already rising. That showed me the strength, resilience and faith of New York City and New Yorkers. It sent a clear message to the world that we will overcome anything thrown at us – that is our spirit.
You realize how New York is, and it makes me say, “I love New York.” My love story with New York is an affair to remember. I am supposed to take my friend there on her birthday and am looking forward to it. I have already been there more than a dozen times and have never once been bored. It makes me believe this: “If you are tired of New York, then you are tired of life.” I say time and again that I am in a New York state of mind – it is my mantra.
Anant Nagpur is an Old Ottawa South resident who loves to travel and share his experiences with readers.