Appreciating Opportunities at My Fingertips that Many will Never be Afforded
By Katie Maraghy
I’m a small town girl. Born and raised in the suburbs of Virginia, and educated as a college student in rural North Carolina, the big city is a big deal.
To many at home, a summer in New York City seemed a lofty goal. To live on my own and intern in the most populated city in The United States was daunting and thrilling at the same time. I grew up and go to school in an area that is very homogenous in terms of race and socioeconomic status. To be in the heart of America’s melting pot was going to be an adventure.
In my first week here, I have fulfilled some of my more touristy goals: I attended a taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, sat in the front row of The Colbert Report, explored the Brooklyn Flea Market, ate way too much in Little Italy, and marveled at the offerings of Chinatown’s street markets. Tonight I’m trying to see Newsies. I’ve heard great things. (If you’ve seen it let me know what you think!)
And yet, one thing I had not yet experienced was the one thing I most strongly associated with New York City. I had not yet visited the 9/11 memorial that sits where the World Trade Center once stood. Now, while I could not fully grasp what was happening as I sat with my class of fellow third graders back in 2001, I understood something was wrong. I saw my parents react in a way I had never seen before. I could not begin to understand the implications of going to war. It was not until yesterday that I got a better grasp on what the events of 9/11 did to our generation.
The realization came as I watched groups of elementary and middle school children run around the monument, clamoring to get a better view. I was struck as the students seemed unimpressed by what they saw. They were first entranced by the soft waterfalls, but quickly tired and began snapping goofy photos of one another with their smart phones. I was miffed, though not entirely sure why.
The 9/11 memorial reminded me of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address where he deemed the battlefield in Pennsylvania “hallowed ground”. I believed that this spot, where foundations crumbled twelve years ago, deserved reverence and respect. But can you blame a group of schoolkids? They do not know anything different. The haven’t known a life where The United States was not involved in multiple wars abroad. Extensive airport security, the Department of Homeland Security and its advisory system, and shows like Homeland and 24 that focus on terrorist threats to the U.S. did not exist to the extent they do now. Terrorism was not heard on the floors of congress or in campaign speeches with the same frequency. It didn’t occupy our mindsets. We weren’t afraid of others the way we sometimes are now.
In standing between where the two towers once stood, and gazing up at the new One World Trade Center still in construction, I realized how lucky I am. I am lucky to be in New York. I am in one of the most diverse cities in the country. It’s a city where the cultures of Italy and China are ensconced merely blocks from one another. I have opportunities at my fingertips this summer that many will never be afforded. Instead of being afraid of the unknown and hesitant to explore New York, I am reminded of the strength of those who rebuilt this area of the financial district. People of all walks of life came together to support one another, grieve, and eventually rebuild. This summer, I aim to learn from as many of these people as possible.