I heart New York all together, just in a different way for the time being.
I have loved New York since the day I first visited the city in the early 1990s. I was in my twenties and as soon as I landed, I met a family that would eventually become my American pillar. I spoke very little English then and did not know I would come back to attend a graduate program in journalism. As did so many before me, I immediately felt enamored with the vibrant, fast-pacing, colorful city and have called it my home since the Fall of 2000.
When 9/11 struck Manhattan a year later, the whole place suddenly came to a halt. Flabbergasted New Yorkers left their offices and their apartments all the same. None panicked. Some started to grieve the loss of a parent, a colleague or a friend; most stared bewildered at what the terrorists had done to their town, a reminder of the attack against Pearl Harbor in the wee hours of December 7, 1941, the only other time when the United States faced war on their own soil.
On that sunny, dry and breezy Tuesday September 11, people flocked the sidewalks, gathered in support of one another in cafes, embraced the firemen, the army and police forces, and they lined up in front of hospitals to give their blood as the world witnessed the megalopolis react.
Then Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani called his friend Sirio Maccioni—the famous restaurateur and founder of Le Cirque—to beg him to welcome diners that evening and ask his colleagues to do the same. Sure, Broadway theaters eventually closed as did the airports for some time, but the city remained opened for business.
New Yorkers came together, outside.
Now, they are asked to stay inside, isolated from one another.
In the days that followed the 9/11 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center, American graphic designer Milton Glaser revisited the iconic ‘I♥New York’ logo he had drawn in the late 1970s when New York was trying to lure tourists back after years of bankruptcy and chaos. Glaser added a small burned, black area on the bottom left of the heart, and the text now read, ‘I♥New York More Than Ever.’
“Over the next couple days, I did—purely out of the way I was feeling—an ‘I love New York More Than Ever (poster), because that what was everyone wanted to say—everybody suddenly realized, like, with a sick parent who’s dying, I didn’t realize how much I loved them,” Glaser said in an interview published by the School of Visual Arts (SVA) where he now holds the position of acting Chairman of the Board.
Glaser’s students at SVA distributed the poster all over the city. Every store had one. The Daily News eventually published it on its front and back covers eight days after the attacks, and the new ‘I♥New York’ logo soon became the symbol of resilience, optimism and fierce determination to bring back the city up its feet.
Although New York was grieving—I remember the evening when everyone lit up a candle outside their windows or on their doorsteps—the city became noisy and vivid again, in the most respectful way for those searching for survivors and cleaning Ground Zero.
Things are just the opposite nowadays. Like in so many places in the world, New York that never was supposed to sleep, has almost turned silent. Broadway shows, offices, restaurants, the Metropolitan Opera and concert halls, museums and most of the stores are closed. Self-confinement is in place. Buildings’ construction has halted, and traffic is nonexistent.
New Yorkers came together, outside. Now, they are asked to stay inside, isolated from one another.
I am staying at home as well, rarely venturing outside and only for essential motives. While I am wondering what the future will hold, I keep staring at the view, the powerful and magical view of Manhattan’s skyscrapers, from my 35th floor pad. Straight ahead on 76th street is the green top of the Carlyle, and beyond, the green leaves of Central Park are holding on an improbable invitation. On any clear day, I can see New Jersey. Tilting towards the south, the tallest residential building ‘432 Park Avenue,’ Columbus Circle, the Bloomberg tower and the colorful arrows kissing the skies above Times Square remind me of the busy streets and endless movement of passers-by, shoppers, tourists, workers, cooks, and wanderers—the dreamers.
The city falls asleep now every night. Some buildings’ that are usually lit at all hours turn off soon after sundown.
There is no Mayor of New York City to call upon the restaurants to stay open: he ordered them to close. There is no room in the stores for an ‘I Love New York More Than Ever’ poster—unless deemed essential businesses, they are closed. This is a dramatic time, not just for New York but for the whole world.
Yet, the city is not completely asleep.
There are, of course, the heroes of this peculiar war: the nurses and doctors, the administrative employees and the army of cleaning people who work endless hours in hospitals, exposing themselves to the deadly virus. Every evening at 7pm, when the sun is about to set, as they do around the world, New Yorkers open their windows and join in a perfect concert of applauds, saucepans and bagpipes for them, music that can be heard in every hospital room across the city.
There are the unsung heroes, those who go to work every day to make sure New Yorkers can still buy food, medicine, house products; those who maintain safety and cleanliness on the streets of the five boroughs; those who save us from a fire or a flood or any other accident; those who report on the streets the reality as it is and keep our governments in check; those who deliver the goods we buy online, sometimes just to selfishly entertain ourselves.
There are also the small business owners, the top corporate CEOs and the bankers who endlessly struggle to keep and pay their employees despite the economic looming recession. They exchange ideas, resources and create projects together to weather the storm. We, on the other end, can spend our money with them and, thus, ease our common economic pain, the underlying crisis.
This togetherness is what defines New York today, and beyond, so many places in the world.
More than ever, the only way forward is together
We might be isolated from one another, we may share drinks via a video conference, work from home, exercise and practice yoga with our teachers live through our computers, send a note or place a call to check on a friend and gather online to grieve a parent who passed away. We remain together. We might be isolated and ‘distancing ourselves,’ yet there is no destination we can reach alone anymore. It seems that more than ever, the only way forward is together.
Staring at Manhattan through my window every evening at 7pm and thinking about my workday at dawn every morning, I realize how much we need this togetherness to keep our promise to embrace each other again soon.
I have hearted New York since I first came here. I have hearted New York more than ever since 9/11. Now, I simply love New York all together. I ♥ New York All Together.