As I watch the ceremonies and news stories remembering September 11, 2001, I am solemn. In 2003 I lost my father and little sister within two months of each other; to make matters worst, my mother was very sick during the same time. My family and I thought she was going to be added to the list. I was on edge. I yelled at my supervisor so bad she told me to take some days off. I had to get out. Out for me was out of the city of Chicago. I searched the internet; and found an “I love New York” sale. I booked a flight on ATA for the next afternoon and booked a hotel on hotels.com.
On the airplane, I was still wound up…still angry. I left without calling my family. I later called my sisters, my oldest sister Rita said, “OK” but my next oldest sister Yvette expressed her concern because I was going to “a dangerous city by myself.” Yatta yatta Yatta, I advised, “I will call when I get there.” When I was trying to find my hotel in midtown, I walked past Studio 57 and smiled. It reflected a time of heightened senses and freedom. My room contained a single bed and was very small. The window was messed up and all I could hear was the loud noise of the city shuffle. I just laughed.
As I walked the city streets of New York City, I felt invisible. I watched people whirl by, cars blowing their horns, city vehicles cutting you off, everyone just going about their business. I felt like I couldn’t touch it because I did not exist. I was standing in the midst of chaos and I was still stressed. Maybe this was a mistake coming here.
The next day, I decided to tour the city. I’d been to the city before but it was dictated by someone else’s agenda. I walked. I went to Harlem looking for Bill Clinton, walked through Central Park, Times Square, went to the top of the Empire State Building, the Garment District, walked through Chelsea, Gramercy, Greenwich Village, Soho, Little Italy, upset that the Tribeca film festival started after I would leave, and Chinatown.
I walked and then all of a sudden it was calm. The noise was hushed; something happened. I turned to my left and saw Wall Street and to my right, there it was…..the former site of the World Trade Center. As I looked at the memorial wall, the air in my lungs tightened and I felt something spiraling through my body to my head. I felt the quiet, the reverence, the peace. At that moment, I knew why I came to New York City.
I came to New York City to be reminded that people lost their lives, not because they neglected themselves and fell to illness but through an act of violence. Their families didn’t have to time to prepare for their deaths as I did. I came to New York City to be grateful. I was given time. All my anger and stress left me. I prayed at the wall. As I began to walk, my spirit was quiet. I ended my journey in Battery Park. As I sat on a bench looking at the Statute of Liberty, I said a prayer of gratitude. I sat watching the sunset give way to the night realizing it was time. I could go home. I boarded the train back to my hotel in silence. I found peace in New York City.
Written by: Michelle Jonet
About the Author: Michelle Jonet lives in Chicago, where she works in the health care industry. She is active in various organizations with the goal to leave this world a little better than she found it.