I think I became a New Yorker that gray, late-winter day in 2001 when I stood atop the World Trade Center for first the time, six months prior to 9/11. Not by the common definition, of course, and not even to my own knowledge, but I became one…the seed was planted, with each inhale and exhale of the crisp city air, I felt it — this will one day be a part of you, you will one day be a part of it. And that feeling, that seed undoubtedly grew, quadrupled on that horrifying, bewildering, heartbreaking September morning. For many, the tragedy took seconds to comprehend, digest, literally feel; for others, like myself, it took standing at Ground Zero my first week after moving to Manhattan (in May of 2006), witnessing that devastating hole in the ground, knowing all the holes it left in the lives and hearts of millions. I stared hopelessly at the site and the brave names on the wall, and after I wiped away the tears, I got angry. I was angry people around me were smiling. I was angry there were so many unanswered questions. I was angry I wasn’t here in 2001 to help, to feel what these New Yorkers felt. I was angry so many innocent people had lost their lives in such a tragic, impossible way. And when I realized my anger wouldn’t and couldn’t change the past, I channeled that anger into pride. I was proud to be a part of a city that came together, that stayed together, that showed the rest of the world what it meant to be an American and a New Yorker and a humble human being.
The stories will always be difficult to read, the pictures will always break our hearts, lower Manhattan will always evoke a range of emotions, but we will remember what this city has seen, what it has been through and how, as New Yorkers, we are better than ever.
Nothing can shake the love I have for this city. It is in my heart, it is who I am. I am so lucky and thankful to know what it means to be a New Yorker. Today, more than ever, and always.