It’s been so long since I’ve written to you, dear reader…
I went back to New York. On 19 June 2018, after seventeen years away, I went home.
If you haven’t been following, I was raped on 9/11. Prior to 9/11, I had been in NYC once, twice a month. My earliest childhood memories were of me and my brother swinging on the doors of the World Trade Center. I remember screaming while my father held me while we stood in the crown of the Statue of Liberty, my lady. She has always been my lady. I was crying because I wanted to see the torch, but in 1982 the stairs had fallen into disrepair. The City was my playground when I was two. In 1992, it was my long lost child hood friend. Then too, I gazed upon the towers. I adored the tulip flower towers inside the lobby. From 1997 to 2001 it was my home.
The pedophile who raped me on 9/11 had a meeting in the Trade Center that morning. We were to be in New York early that morning…but he cancelled last minute because I had to work on 12 September 2001. So he drove up to see me. He was 30 minutes away from my house when we got the news. He arrived. Said he had to go back and told me we didn’t have much time…I said, “Time for what?” and he indicated the bedroom. I called him insane and pointed out the fact that people are dying. But it didn’t matter that I said no. He shoved me into the bedroom and raped me while I listened to the second tower fall and my fellow New Yorkers screamed over the radio.
I haven’t been back to New York since…Until June 2018.
The people are calmer. More loving, more patient, more laid back. The rage that infiltrated the city from 1982 to 2001 was gone. A calm…a peace had settled over the city. The people were so wonderful and kind. They smiled easier than I’ve ever seen.
Three things about New York that you only understand if you’ve ever been there:
1 – There is no line standing. I think this is why so many people think New Yorkers are rude. There really is no line standing…in most places. It’s the vendors who have to remember who is next “in line.” And they do. Most of New York runs like its a deli. Is it no wonder? New York is renowned for its deli’s. If you are buying a ticket, there is a line. If you are ordering food outside, there is no line. It isn’t “budging” in New York. It’s understood confusion. Someone always “budges,” and we’re accustomed to saying, “Excuse me. The line (if there is a line) ends there.” No harm done. Outside, at the food vendors, no lines. None. The vendor had it all under control.
2 – There are almost no traffic laws…In fact, you can’t obey standard traffic laws because, in New York, following traffic law will kill you, and traffic would never move if you did. I drove 5th Ave at rush hour. Go ahead, New Yorkers. Give a groan. I will wait. 5th Ave is “Main Street” In NYC. There are four/five lanes of traffic with the two far lanes reserved only for buses. The lines on the road didn’t exist. I mean…they did. We just ignored them. As cars pulled out of street parking spots, there was always seemingly four lanes of car traffic being condensed to three lanes. Bicyclists and motorcyclists whizzed between and around the “parked” cars. It was a giant cog of organized chaos and oh…how I loved it. How I missed it. How I loved being home.
3 – Food is cheap in New York…IF you know where to shop. $3.00 for a hotdog. $3.00 for a New York pretzel. $1.00 for a bottle of water. No tax. The cheese cake was $6.00 and made two meals out of it. My god did I miss the food.
How did I get back to New York?
On my birthday, my son came home from school. “We have a field trip to NYC on 19 June and I signed you up as a chaperone.”
I stopped dead.
“What? I’m going home?”
He said yes and, an hour later apologized that he didn’t get me a birthday gift. Oh, my sweet boy. But you did.
As the next four weeks played out a lot of scheduled got moved around. Turns out, I couldn’t ride on the designated tour bus. If I wanted to see New York, my husband would have to take me. I couldn’t drive New York. The raping pedophile had made it clear to me that I couldn’t drive in the City and was incapable of being there without him. But my husband came home a day before the trip to say he couldn’t miss work that day.
I announced that I wouldn’t be going to the City. Four hours later I realized, no matter what, I had to go.
The day before the trip, I filled my gas tank and realized I only had $30.00 in my pocket. “I don’t care,” I said. “I have to go.
So I went. Two hours into the drive, an unexpected payment went through and I had $150.00 in my pocket. I made the trip to and from New York with only $150.00 to my name. New York is cheap IF you know where to go.
I took my two girls with me. My son road in the tour bus with his classmates. I was surprised, first and foremost, how well I knew where to go. I was stunned. Memories surfaced as I drove.
The pedophile loved to rape me while he drove. Every trip to New Jersey/New York consisted of him shoving me down on him while he drove and flashing my body at drivers on the highway as I rode. Publicly raped and threatened if I didn’t comply…It all came up as I drove. I was raped here, and here, and here…No! I screamed inside my head. This is a new association! A new memory! This is the place where my daughters, and I happily filled in the blank, easily replacing each rape with their smiles and voices.
We arrived at the Jersey Turnpike and my memory lit up. I knew where to go. “Shit!” I said. I can’t take the Tunnel. I’m claustrophobic! “Wait. We’ll just take GW Bridge.” As I thought this, I watched the tour bus veer to the right. “Where the hell are they going?” I said, knowing they just took a very wrong turn. They were heading back to Sleepy Hallow a solid hour out of the way.
Did you know…Sleepy Hallow…as in “The Legend of Sleepy Hallow,” takes place in the village of Sleepy Hallow, New Jersey. It’s a real place where the author grew up.
I decide to take the upper level of the GW Bridge so the girls can view the sky line. And just like that I knew exactly where to go. Turn right off the bridge, down into/through Harlem and take Henry Hudson Parkway that runs alongside Manhattan. More so than ever I realized something…
My husband hates the way I drive. He learned how to drive in Boston. I hate the way he drives. We both loathe the way Jersey drives. I think Jersey hates the way Jersey drives.
As I’m driving through the City, I realize they all drive like me! I love driving in New York and I knew my way around like it was home.
So how did I visit New York on less than $200.00? Set aside $50.00 for all-day parking. Park somewhere in the Upper West Side. Anywhere along Central Park. Seriously, pick a museum and park. $15.00 for tolls to enter New York from Jersey. Plan How to spend the day at Central Park. You can picnic there, walk anywhere, and have your pick of museums. Food…Eat only at the outside vendors.
- Hot dog: $3.00
- Pretzel: $3.00
- pizza: $1.00 (This was a pizzeria somewhere around Columbus Circle)
- water: $1.00
If you buy your museum tickets at the door, you can “name your price.” I paid $20.00 for three museum tickets at the Natural Museum of History. Voila! Air conditioning! I have seen so much of these museums, I was calm about them. I only wanted my daughters to see the Hayden Planetarium and the Ocean Room. I wanted them to stand under the giant whale. I saw, for the first time, a petrified disk cut from the Giant Red Wood that was cut back in the 1800’s. The thing was huge! And sad. So sad…
The girls had the run of the museum. When hunger hit, instead of heading back to the car where we left “field trip” food, I took them out to the street vendors where they had their first NYC hot dogs. And my god did I miss them. We returned to the museum, walking the exhibits until the girls were ready to see the City. We walk. Its the only way to see the city. If it can be avoided, don’t drive. I wanted to take them out to Central Park and to Time Square. I wanted cheese cake. I had only been craving it for ten years.
The girls kept asking,” Where do we get food?”
To which I answered, “It’s New York. You pick a direction and walk. Within two minutes you’ll find the best of something. And this…This is why I love New York.” Two minutes later we found a little sit eatery that served New York Cheesecake. Here I presented the girls with “the cheesecake challenge.”
“I challenge you to eat an entire slice in one sitting.” Lizzie had maybe six bites and she was done. My stubborn 15 year old made it half way through before she couldn’t eat another bite. With half a cheesecake left, I pulled out my iPhone and followed the map down from Columbus down Broadway, heading down to Time Square.
Along the way, I froze. “I know where I am. This is Lincoln Center. Finally, the fountain was on. I’ve been there twenty times…and not once was it on. This day, it was. The girls played beside the fountain for thirty minutes before we kept walking. Five minutes later we found a piano. 50 street pianos have been scattered all over the city. If you take up the street piano tour, you can sit down and play to your heart’s content. This tour will give you a full NYC experience. I sat and played for 30 minutes. Just played the piano there in the streets of New York outside of Lincoln Center.
I have never been happier.
It was at this time that my phone died leaving me in the middle of Manhattan without a map.
I have no sense of direction and had a moment of panic. But then I realized…Lincoln Center, Leonard Bernstein Plaza…I knew where I was. We walked to Time Square, stopping now and then at the classic “I love NY” touristy gift shops where I bought my NYC coffee mugs and a model of the Twin Towers. It was here that I realized something about New Yorkers. Before 9/11 all their mugs, banners, and magnets depicted was the skyline of New York from Empire State Building to Twin Towers. Now, almost everything depicts the Statue of Liberty in the foreground and the skyline of New York ends at the Empire State Building. Where Liberty Tower now stands, the skyline is abruptly cut off.
For us, it’s an ugly deep scar. A painful reminder. Oh, won’t forget. We can’t. How much I wish they had just rebuilt the Towers.
We walked back, arriving at the museum around 4:30. Twenty minutes later, I paid for parking and left the museum.
“I want to see the Statue of Liberty,” my oldest requests.
“That’s on the other side of the island,” I told her. “Next time. It’s not a quick drive by sighting…I mean, it can be, but…”
“I’m fine with that,” she said. Except, I wasn’t. I had to show her my lady the right way.
“It will take us two hours to drive down to the end of Manhattan. I can show you the Empire State Building.”
They expressed an excitement over this, so we hooked up with 5th Ave and drove the full length down…at 5PM…in NYC…
An hour later, we arrive at the Empire State Building in bumper to bumper traffic.
“What are we doing!?” I suddenly realized while waiting in line. “I know this city! The tunnel isn’t the only way out of the city!”
I turned off the main road and ventured out…only to find myself approaching Greenwich Village and Liberty Tower.
I froze. Tears swelled in my eyes. “I’m not ready,” I said. “Not on this trip! I’m not ready.”
Here in Greenwich Village, so close to Ground Zero…these people had seen war on their homeland, and it showed. The scars were vivid and deep. You could feel it in the air. You could smell it. The hurt still lingered. I steered the car back toward Hudson Parkway, 9A, and drove parallel up through Manhattan until we came closer to the upper level of GW Bridge.
As we left the city, the girls ventured down telling me everything they loved about her. I had been worried that their passion for the gardens and forests of the Allegheny Plateau would have turned them against New York. But I felt the love for the City in them as strongly as it was in me. Upon arriving home, my son too expressed the same love for the City. Each is eager to get back.
As for me…
I did it. I didn’t need a man or my husband, or anyone for that matter to escort me. At any time, I could claim my city for my own and just go. And with less than $150.00, I could too easily make this trip. The trip back home was liberating. At once, my pining deep ache for Ireland vanished. Had I transferred the pain to another land I called my home? Never again will I depend on another to take me back to my city. The empowerment that I gained…The strength and confidence…Today, I stand up to people more. I speak up for myself more boldly. With all my heart, I now fight for me. I can do so much more, and I know this now.
I’ve regained my home. I aggressively took it back. My model of the TWC sits by my bed. There is an eased ache there now. In a way, I got my towers back from the terrorists. I smile and, every night, they are now the last thing I see before I sleep.
That night, I got home. I couldn’t stop smiling. I fell down on my bed, a smile on my face and, for the first time in seventeen years I breathed soundly. I slept deeply. “They’re okay,” I told my husband as I drifted off.
“My family. My kin. They’re okay.”
And they are. Everyone in New York who survived it…They made it. Everyone who survived, they made it.
Everyone, my family, they’re okay.
Their screams are no longer the last sound I heard from them. Their screams, now replaced with their smiles and kindness.