Archive for Tuesday, August 1, 2006

NYC honeymoon stirs memories of Sept. 11

August 1, 2006

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Our flight into LaGuardia Airport ends with a pass over Manhattan before landing. We're low and slow enough that it's easy to pick out the city's landmarks - there's Central Park, the Chrysler Building, Times Square.

This is my fourth trip to New York since 9-11, and my third flight here. I cannot visit without contemplating terrorism, and I cannot see Manhattan out an airplane window without wondering about what the passengers aboard the planes that morning were seeing and thinking during their last moments over the island.

Imagination is insufficient.

This is my first trip here since getting married; it is the first time I get to share the city with my wife, on our honeymoon. But for the first time since 9-11, I find myself entertaining doubts about whether visiting New York is the right thing to do.

After all, the city is still clearly in the cross hairs of any terrorists who will, in all likelihood, hit our country again one of these days. In the months leading up to our trip, in fact, there were various reports of plans to hit the city's subways and another, somewhat more laughable, to blow up the Holland Tunnel and flood the financial district.

It is one thing for me, as a single man, to face those elevated risks by myself. It is entirely another to expose my wife to those dangers; this trip had been my idea, after all. So every now and again, I find myself fretting.

The city itself changes my mind.

We are weeks away from the five-year anniversary of the attacks. Reminders of 9-11 are everywhere - in security measures at some venues, and in cheap memorial items sold by streetside venders - even if you don't venture down to Ground Zero.

Yet the city is unmistakably alive and vibrant.

As we wander across the city during the week, it becomes clear that New Yorkers aren't sitting around, glumly pondering the possibility of another attack.

They're too busy walking, yelling, cooking, acting, selling, hawking, honking, hustling, building, doing, doing, doing to be paralyzed by fear. There's simply no time.

It is a sensible way to live. And we, as temporary guests in the city, decide to adopt the ways of our hosts. When a taxi cuts me off as I walk through an intersection, I find myself tempted to slam my hand on the hood and yell: "I'm WALKIN' here!" Clearly, I've seen too many movies.

Good sense - and Midwestern politeness - get the better of me. We have an exciting, exhausting week.

On Friday, our plane lifts off out of LaGuardia and we catch a last view of the city. I realize there's no guarantee the skyline will be intact the next time I visit; New York, after all, still is in the crosshairs.

Until then, the city lives.

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