Wednesday, 11 September 2013

FURTHER TRAVEL TALES - 911 & the hand of reality

In a near forgotten past and in a life before children, there was a young girl who wandered without bags under her eyes but with a bag on her back. Here she returns to notes she made while visiting New York City in 2003  

As I leave the Manhattan hotel for the morning, I join the excitement, for just outside the midtown building are two of New York’s finest. It is clear that they are both enjoying the attention they are receiving. 

Proud of their N.Y.P.D. status, they happily parade in front of the foreign fan club who are beginning to form a crowd around the patrol car. Its lights revolve and it shines as the snow blizzards down upon it. The siren stops before it has really begun, several times, purely for the entertainment value.  

The young one looks to be in his late-twenties. He is half the size of his colleague. Consequently he has the better looks, more defined. He is posing in the photos whilst the other takes them. He grins for yet another picture, and his gleaming badge matches his teeth. Thrilled with their Kodak moment another New York tourist is already having a nice day.

Before I continue on my way, the other one passes through the gathering, a path rapidly clearing for him. He stands under the awning beside me. He is huge. His neck has disappeared between a stack of chins and a beefy torso. His whole face glows but his big cheeks are so red it almost looks like he is wearing rouge. His eyes are bright and compliment a cheeky grin. He is the older of the two, probably in his late thirties, but he has the face of a little boy. Exhaling vapour trails, he smacks his gloved hands together. It is minus eight. 

From side on I can see rows and rows of stripes on his large chest. “Wow,” I exclaim. “What are all the medals for?” I turn to face him and read the letters W.T.C. placed above the colours. Immediately I connect the decoration with the atrocity of September 11th, 2001, and take his hand to shake it. I cannot manage to find anything adequate to say. He looks at me and sighs: “It was a bad day.”  The word bad is drawn out.

I walk through the dazzling white up to Fifth Avenue and wait to flag a cab. And wait. The towering Empire State building is shrouded to a quarter of its size, hidden in the curtain of snow. Many empty cabs pass reading 'off-duty.' On second thoughts I retrace my steps and head towards the subway, and some warmth at least.

The two policemen are drinking coffee now and the group around them has dispersed. “Here she is.” I approach the man - father? grandfather? brother? uncle? whose jacket doesn’t look warm enough. Somewhat recovered I say, “Hello. Sorry about before, I just didn’t think.” Graciously, he introduces his colleague. “This is my buddy. He’s lucky to be alive. He was running away from them as they fell.”

Underground, I want the express. The local pulls in. After a brisk passenger exchange, its doors shut, although not before a young woman flies out, lucky enough not to get caught between them. It is immediately clear that she is running away from something.

The few people still on the platform can hear her hyperventilating. She sobs between gasps and gasps between sobs. She doesn't know what to do. Or where to go. She climbs several steps of the exit, only to return back to where she began. All the while her head darts in every direction, her eyes large.

A man waiting beside me on the platform asks her in the most abrupt fashion: “What is wrong? Are you alright?” He sounds just like Woody Allen. She tells us she has been followed for quite some way and that her stalker remains on the train having been unable to get off. 

She waits a few more minutes before climbing back up the exit still crying.

My train arrives. I sit down and read the facing advert: ‘Keeping New York safe tomorrow starts with recruiting more of New York’s finest today. Phone 1800 R-E-C-R-U-I-T.’ 

Dedicated to the NYPD 
& all those that fell with the towers