Wednesday, September 14, 2011

on an ode to my city.

i can't remember the first time i came to new york. i've been coming here since i was a baby to visit family, so it's always been a part of me. i do know that i've always loved it, and that it made me more of a city girl than a country girl. living here has only deepened my relationship with the city.
the summer i worked in new york was a hectic one. i worked long hours - most days until 3 AM, sometimes 5 AM. one night, in a quiet moment, i wandered the floor i worked on. i walked over to the west side of the building and stared down into ground zero, lit up at night, quiet and deserted. i walked past ground zero every morning, pondering how big and how small it seemed all at the same time. i always wondered what i would have gone through had i worked here during 9/11, not truly being able to comprehend what it must have been like. as i stared down from 21 floors up, i thought of the amount of debris that fell into that hole, all in a matter of 12 seconds. of the streets of downtown manhattan, the oldest and narrowest in the city, flooded with a wave of steel and glass. of just how many people worked downtown, and what it meant to try and evacuate them in the one to two hours it took the towers to fall. it was brief, this glimpse of horror i created for myself.
and just like that, i snapped back to the moment at hand.
the late night turning into early morning. the printers whirring away. i turned and walked down to the other end of the floor, where she was waiting for me, the sun peeking it's way around her. i loved looking at the statue of liberty when i was tired and nearing exhaustion from work. she reminded me of the hard work from those who came before me, trying to make this a better country. how 100 years earlier my ancestors had sailed past her into ellis island. how working in this skyscraper in this big city was not just a fruition of my hard work, but theirs, too. she reminded me to keep on going.
there are a lot of people who have opinions about new york. some people aren't city people, and that's fine. some people come to work for a few days and stay in times square, go to the office in midtown, think they have it all figured out. some come during the holidays and think new york is always packed to the gills. and when they hear you live in new york they want to tell you that, after visiting for a few days, they hated it and they could just never live in such a place.
they tell me it's dirty.
they tell me it smells.
they tell me the people aren't friendly.
they tell me it's loud.
they tell me it's expensive.
they are basically telling me they don't know a damn thing about this city. they tell me they have completely missed the point of this city. it's easy to think those things of new york, it requires no thought and no effort. new york is a complicated place, but the things it is capable of - the way it can make you feel, the choices and opportunities it gives to you, the places and food and people and culture to discover - make those detriments obsolete.
i smile and shrug at those people, i try to bite my tongue. i wish i could have them stand next to me that night. looking out over ground zero, then over towards the statue of liberty. i think then they could see past the smells and prices and sounds to the resilience and spirit of new york. who she really is. what she's overcome. where she started. where she came from. perhaps then they could understand how this city, whether they could live here or not, is a great one. one that will continually move forward, upward, and over whatever someone might put in it's away.
new york. it's a hell of a town.


  1. This makes me want to move there! I love that you love nyc Colleen - it's refreshing to hear someone say so many positive things about where the live instead of the typical complaints.

  2. Beautifully said Colleen. It just makes me all the more excited to discover your incredible city in a few weeks!

  3. Between reading your blog and watching HIMYM with Mike, I'm so ready to move to New York!

  4. I love this, Colleen. And I love this city of ours. Such a great post.

  5. Amazing, Colleen! I love this ode to New York, and the picture is amazing as well. Great post.


    Erin @

  6. This is a very beautiful ode. I need to visit NYC again very soon, it's been too long and I have so many people to see out there. I'm glad to be living in a less chaotic environment than New York or Chicago but I do love them both.

  7. Glad you have a love for the city! Sounds like a wonderful love affair! :)

  8. I really adore this post. Your love for the city is both beautiful and inspiring. I think NYC is fabulous as well.

    P.S. What a perfect picture.

  9. This picture is amazing. Would it be weird if I printed it and hung it on my fridge? Too late, print pending.

    (I didn't really print it. Don't think I'm crazy.)

  10. erin - lol! i am totally ok with that actually! it was taken by my boyfriend - he has such an amazing eye for a good photo - and i'll pass along that you said this. it's always been a favorite of mine, too.


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