5 Things I Loved About New York in 2001

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Yesterday was September 11, and it marked the 11-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York. In the years immediately following 2001, we marked the day in middle school with a moment of silence, and our teachers encouraged us to air our adolescent emotions. Many of us had been affected by 9/11–some of us had lost dear friends or family members; others, like myself, had been unable to return to our homes in downtown Manhattan for several days. It’s strange to think, looking at the busy streets around us, that for months this part of New York looked like a ghost town. Toxic smoke lingered for weeks.

By the time I went away to college, the memory of Sept. 11 had become further separated from the trauma that surrounded it. There had also been an explosion in human communication. The first anniversary of 9/11 that I was away from New York was the first time the memorial moved, en masse, to the Internet.

So my way of memorializing this day is, rather than attempt to be profound in a Tweet (which I have seen many others do elegantly) to post a list of the things I loved about New York City in 2001, and the wonderful memories that come with them.

1. Poetry in Motion

Poetry in Motion

Poetry in Motion sent poems underground into the subways from 1992-2008. I would check constantly to see if the poems had been updated, and the above poem changed the way I felt about poetry. “They’re just sitting in the room,” I remember thinking. “Wow.”

The best part? Poetry in Motion started again this year, just in time for my return to New York. Have you seen any great Poetry in Motion yet?

2. The summer pools

When the weather got warm enough it meant only one thing: the outdoor pool at the Carmine Street Rec center and the pool at Thompson Square Park were about to open. There is only one proven cure for NYC summer heat, and it involves dunking yourself in ice cold water. One hot summer I worked around the corner from the Carmine Street pool. It was torture to walk by.

3. Scouting out stars

High school was all about staking out the cast of Gossip Girl, but before that we had the frequent sightings of SJP and co. to satisfy our voyeurism. I doubt anyone my age at the time was allowed to watch the raunchy hit, but if you had an older sister or an HBO subscription, you knew that it was taboo, glamorous and almost attainable.

When you saw a tell-tale trailer parked on your block your heart skipped a beat in the hopes that you might catch a glimpse of one of those iconic ladies. Not that we would ever admit to being phased by the famous. Even at age 10, that was a known killer of street cred.

4. Student metrocards

They. Were. Free. Three rides a day to be used between 6 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. This is more nostalgia. I didn’t know at 10 years old how much a free ride was worth.

5. The voices in cabs that told you to buckle up

When did they end these? “Buckle up, for safety!” some familiar stranger would boom from the backseat of the cab when you entered, interrupting the talk radio or middle eastern music that was playing. Mayor Giuliani didn’t quite pique my interest, but Bernadette Peters may have made a few cameos in my cab. I think Bert and Ernie (maybe Elmo?) did one of these, which was obviously my favorite!

What did you love about New York City in 2001?

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