I’m not usually a news watcher but this week I was compelled to watch. Like many of us, I followed the path of Hurricane Sandy and the devastation that was left behind, especially in New York and other parts of the northeastern United States. I’ve spent a fair amount of time since the storm reminiscing about my first visit to New York City in 2005. I can vividly recall strolling through some of the areas hardest hit. I suddenly felt like “my problems” were insignificant relative to those that had just suffered the damaged done by this horrendous storm.
Perhaps it was too much television, but when I was younger I thought of New York as a dirty and scary city, full of crime and people who wouldn’t give you the time of day. During my visit it became very evident just how wrong I was. Leaving a city of around 80,000 in Canada and finding my way to a city of 8 million proved to be more difficult than I anticipated, but the NY showed me how great of a host it can be.
The night I arrived to NY city in 2005 it was dark, close to midnight and maybe sleep deprivation had set in which caused me to take a wrong exit. After an hour or so trying to find my way around I decided to ask a police officer for directions. When I drove up next to the officer and explained what I was looking for and asked where I was he exclaimed “You’re in Harlem”. My first thought was “this is not good”. I politely (and slightly fearful) asked for some help getting back in the right direction. After what seemed like a five-minute explanation from the officer, I quickly said, “I don’t think that is going to work”. Sensing my tiredness or perhaps anxiety he offered to let me follow him to the correct borough.
Once back on the right path to Brooklyn I thanked my new-found friend and attempted the rest of the journey on my own. Obviously still looking confused in Brooklyn, a car pulled up next to me and the driver rolled down his window. He ask if I where I was trying to get to. I gave the name of the hotel and he said he was an off duty police officer and to follow him. Thank you NYPD x 2.
The majority of the five days and nights was spent working in Brooklyn but my coworkers who lived in the area did show me around parts of Staten Island, Manhattan and NJ in addition to my brief stopover in Harlem (although I didn’t plan that). Each day I was surprised by the hospitality shown to me by the people of NY. Not the cold, rude people who are stereotyped on TV. For my trip back home I decided to take one more drive through Manhattan by myself along with what felt like 1000’s of yellow cabs. I’m not sure if I would attempt to drive around Manhattan today, but back then after five days in the city I felt like I was among friends.
I still have many friends in NY city and around the surrounding area and I’m very relieved to hear that life is starting to slowly return to normal. New York has shown incredible resilience over the years especially since 2001, and I know it will overcome Sandy too. You will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers in the coming days.