Column: Fear despite New York's towering freedom
I'm writing this column from New York City. However, by the time you read it, I'll be back home (sadly!)
The last time I came to New York was for my birthday ten years ago. This time, my best friend and I decided to bring my daughter for hers. If you’ve never been to New York, then best way to describe it is it’s like nowhere else on earth. With steam rising up from the streets, yellow cabs and New York cops, you feel like you’re permanently on the set of a movie. The pace is fast, the streets exhausting and the size of the food portions enormous. In short, you’ll always leave something on your plate. But there’s one misconception about New Yorkers, and that is that they’re rude. This couldn’t be further from the truth, especially if you’re English. They will love you and can’t wait to help out if you suddenly find yourself flummoxed on the subway.
New Yorkers are also extremely embarrassed about President Trump. We got talking to a few, and they think he’s as cringe-worthy as the rest of us. Barack Obama, it seems, is as greatly missed by his own people as he is the rest of the world.
But New York, like London, carries its own battle scars from recent terrorist attacks. The last time I was here, construction workers were building the Freedom Tower, raising from the ground post-9/11. Today, in place of the Twin Towers, stand two haunting, yet perfect, memorial sites with never-ending water walls and the names of victims carved into surrounding metal edges. The size and scale of the memorials is breathtaking. Next to them stands the Freedom Tower. Two fingers stuck up to the terrorists because it is taller and grander than the ones it’s replaced. In spite of this, there’s still tension in the air, indicative of a city that has never quite recovered. This became apparent on our first evening when we strolled into a nearby park following a long flight. We were watching musicians perform when the sound of a huge explosion ricocheted all around, reverberating through the air and against the surrounding skyscrapers. “That didn’t sound good,” the compere remarked over the microphone.
The sound alone was enough to make everyone flee the park in their droves (us included). As the wail of fire engines pierced the air and people ran, I thought that, in spite of Freedom Tower, this beautiful city still lives in fear, like London does now. Thankfully, the ‘explosion’ was nothing more than the sound of bus tyres popping in the sweltering heat.