Saturday, September 22, 2001

New York City

Still a great place to visit

        Thankfully, I wasn't near the World Trade Center when its towers collapsed.

        My mother and I were in our hotel room on 32nd Street. After the planes hit, we joined a throng of people walking down the middle of Fifth Avenue, unwilling to believe until we had seen it for ourselves.

        The truth is my New York vacations have never been about famous buildings.

        It's the people I love — the people and their fearlessness. New Yorkers cannot be embarrassed or repressed. They bring their dogs to work, kneel in prayer on Times Square and take the stage in random bars to sing love songs they have written themselves.

        I love the city. Today I'm rooting for its soul.

Delights, large and small
        This column was on hiatus for the summer while I worked on other projects. I planned on resuming with gusto after a fun trip to Manhattan.

        My mother and I arrived three days before the attack.

        We saw a Broadway play called Proof, which gave us chills. We saw an exhibit by Joseph Grigely, a deaf artist who communicates by having people write down their sides of the conversation. For his show, he covered a room with 2,000 of these tantalizing scribbles.

        “You would miss that if you could hear,” one person wrote.

        “I wonder if I'll ever not be tired,” wrote another.

        One day before the disaster, Mom and I ducked into a bar in Greenwich Village to escape a downpour. The resident cats came to our table; soon Rizzo was asleep on one of my bags while Ratso leaped in and out of the other. We laughed. Someone took our picture.

Emotions run high

        In the horrible days that followed, I was again moved by the people of New York — the people and their palpable sadness.

        No doubt you have read about the “missing” fliers posted around the city. Seeing these hopeless queries is like attending a thousand funerals. Your throat hurts. You ache for strangers.

        I was struck by the names of the missing: Tom Hughes, Doris Eng, Sneha Ann Philip, Alex Braginsky, Mayra Valdes, Liam Callahan.

        The murderers took people of every race and culture. They took buildings whose lifeblood mirrored the city's: rich in variety, harmonious, hard-working.

        If you want to help New York, take a vacation to the city. See a Broadway show. Buy a T-shirt on Times Square. Bring not just your money but your goodwill and your Midwestern innocence, because they are as much a part of New York as the cafes in Little Italy or the galleries in Soho.

        New Yorkers need our spirit now. And we could always use a little of theirs.

A stranger's gesture

        On our last night, Mom and I tried to enjoy a French restaurant. The city was beginning to revive. People were laughing around us, but I slumped in my chair, remembering the fliers of the missing.

        Our waiter, a dark-skinned man who might have been of Indian descent, asked if I was OK. “Not exactly,” I said.

        After dinner, he brought me a cup of chocolate for comfort. “I lost someone, too,” he said.

        I was reminded of one of those rumors about New York, one that is wildly untrue. You'll see when you visit here: New Yorkers absolutely will look you in the eye.

        Karen Samples can be reached at 859-578-5584 or


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