I can't believe it's been 10 years since 9/11! The wound feels so fresh... or at the very least unhealed and festering. In the fall of 2000 I went to New York City for the first time in order to audition for the Juilliard School of Music. I distinctly remember my first view of the city as we drove in. Miles before you see anything else, you see the twin towers rising above all of the other buildings. They were beautiful, and as a small town boy from the south I was in total awe. That's when I started my love affair with New York City.
A year later, I was a freshman at Temple University in Philadelphia. I was coming back from class when I saw two girls crying in the lobby of the dorm. They had the TV on and I saw the smoking towers on the news. I went up to my room and watched it all unfold. It was horrifying. It was devastating, and I was scared.
Four weeks later I was on a bus up to New York City to see a Broadway show. As the city came into view I was shocked by the new skyline. It's one thing to see it on TV, but another to see the stark difference in person. I'll never forget what happened while I was in the city.
We had some time to walk around before the show, so I headed into Times Square which was exceptionally crowded that day. People in New York always have somewhere to go, and they need to get there quick! That day was no exception, despite the large crowd. Over the drone of voices and traffic I heard a loud horn. When I turned and looked I saw a fire truck coming down the road. There was no emergency, and all of the guys were hanging out of the windows and off the back of the truck.
Right there in the middle of Times Square, every single person stopped. For that moment, no one had anywhere to go. Every person faced the fire truck and started clapping. Then cheering. As the firetruck drove down the road all of the people, in true New York style, went back to their business as if nothing happened. But for me, something huge happened. I witnessed the spirit of New York and the spirit of this country. It was so touching that I felt my lip quiver as I started walking again.
Since that day, NYC has held a very special place in my life. I've been back many times and always remember the day I saw the heroes ride through Times Square. I hope the energy that was unleashed on 9/11/01 never dies away. I hope we, as Americans, use that energy in a positive way. I hope that we look at our neighbors with kindness, and I hope we never take a single day of this life for granted. We owe that to the 3,000 people who died that day.