Today marks the 12th anniversary of 9/11 (as in September 11, 2001), which affected not only New York City and Washington, D.C., but the rest of the country as well – not to mention the rest of the world. For the people of New York City, the long road back to normalcy following 9/11 has been long and hard – and will no doubt remain so, despite what’s happened in the past twelve years.
Yours truly hasn’t visited New York City since the summer of 1999 – and by that time, so much in my life (as well as those of my family) had changed greatly that resulted in us visiting it on a less-frequent basis. When my brothers and I were growing up, visiting New York City along with our parents on a somewhat regular basis was and remains some of the high points of our lives. For one thing, my two great-aunts Foye and Mary “Mamie” Perry lived in New York City for most of their lifetimes – and staying at their apartment when we visited the city was but one part of the kind of excitement that we experienced, and created the kind of personal memories that remain with you for life.
New York City had much to offer whenever anyone visited it (including my family and I) – including Times Square, Rockefeller Center, the United Nations building, Broadway, the Empire State Building, and until 2001, the World Trade Center. Of course, New York City has also had its share of problems during its long history – the kind shared by virtually every town and city in the world, and the kind that you can’t make disappear quickly. And yet, New York City rose to the challenge by confronting – and in many cases, solving – the problems that would have driven a lesser man towards the brink of insanity.
By the 1990’s, however, my family’s trips to New York City became less frequent – but not by lack of choice. In the winter of 1991, as I was struggling with my personal and psychological demons, both my mother and I saw Mamie for the very last time – by that time, her health was already in decline. (Since then, Mother has never returned to New York City.) Mamie died in the summer of 1991, while I was starting to recover from my psychological and personal ordeals. Soon after, Foye moved out of the apartment that she and Mamie had lived in for many years, and moved into an one-person apartment (both in the same apartment building) – I visited it during two of my rare trips to New York City during the 1990’s. Foye would continue to live in New York City until the night before her death in early-September, 1996.
The last time I went to New York City was in the summer of 1999, along with my brother Edward, my nephew David, and two of the grandsons of one of my maternal aunts. One of the places that I think that we might have visited in New York City over fourteen years ago was the World Trade Center, already a symbol of the city’s greatness. Ever since then, I haven’t visited New York City at all – whether or not I’ll ever return there is something even I can’t predict.
Looking down from Heaven, I suspect that Foye and Mamie would have had mixed reactions to what happened in New York City on 9/11 – while showing sympathy for those who were killed on that day, the victims who had a lot to look forward to, but became victims of a madness that we’ll never completely fathom. But Foye and Mamie’s spirits would also be very proud of the people of New York City – and the rest of the United States, as well as the entire world, for not only facing the evil and tragedy that challenges us on a daily basis, but also overcoming it, proving that the best of humanity does count for something. And that fact is definitely worth cherishing.