I lived in New York for 31 years. I’m no longer there, but New York felt like home from day one, when from the window of my plane I saw the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center shining under the morning sun.
Born and raised in Brazil, I was in my 20’s when I first saw NYC. When I first arrived, my plan was to stay for two months, enough to complete the course ‘English as a Second Language,’ at Columbia University. But I fell in love with the city, discovered its soul in the poems of Walt Whitman, made new friends, and at the end of two months I extended my stay ‘for a little longer.’
I never lived in Brazil again. I married a New Yorker, had children, and when our apartment in Manhattan became too small, we moved a few miles away to a leafy suburb in Westchester, where the kids grew up. But ‘the City,’ was still the center of our lives: for working, meeting friends, shopping, going to Broadway musicals, Carnegie Hall or the MET Opera.
I was living in London temporarily, on September 11th, 2001, exactly 19 years ago today. It broke my heart to watch on TV the Towers crumbling; for New Yorkers they were the symbol of a city that runs fast, thinks big and has no patience for smallness. Something just as beautiful was built to replace them, but the two old standing giants will always be in the heart of every New Yorker.
The city that never sleeps still feels like home, it always will. I visit it as often as I can, but it’s a different place now, after COVID-19, the lockdown and the riots. Many people moved out, others are planning to.
But I believe that NYC will bounce back, that this sad time will pass. I know that the Big Apple will shine again upon the world, just like it did when a starry-eyed young Brazilian first landed at JFK to stay ‘for two months only.’