New York, New York!
A Passionate Guide Gives An Unforgettable Tour Into The Heart Of New York City
BY RAY SPECKMAN
If you ever want a tour of New York City, I suggest finding Patrick.
No travel brochure, no internet search, no detailed map can reach the heartbeat of New York City like he can.
Patrick is New York-born. He was an unsuccessful aspiring actor who “moved to the front of the house” and worked in New York theaters for many years. He studied New York. He lived New York. Twenty years ago, Patrick, after a friend bet him he couldn’t do it, passed a New York City tour guide examination without studying.
On one very hot day this summer, I and 35 other tourists were captivated by Patrick’s knowledge, his energy and his love for New York City.
His gait varied as we walked the tour, but he told us: “I can step it up. New Yorkers are genetically engineered to walk a block in a minute.”
Later, he asked: “You see all the T-shirts that say, ‘I Love New York’? Well, we don’t love you until you show us something. New York has always been a city that accepts different cultures and viewpoints, where controversy becomes change and change is good.”
On 9/11, Patrick had just finished showering in his apartment just a few blocks from the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
“I heard the close sound of an airplane and then a loud thud,” he told us, his strong voice quivering with emotion. “I thought it was as had been predicted, an airplane accidentally crashing into one of the towers. I looked outside and heard another plane fly past the towers, make a U-turn and fly into the second tower. I knew then it was not an accident.”
He stopped and took a long breath.
He went on to say that he was one of few New York residents who owned a car. Immediately, even before some first responders were on the site, he became a driver for medical personnel, an ambulance for the injured and a taxi for friends of those involved in the dastardly attack.
“I wasn’t the only one,” he said. “There were many others who did whatever they could. A hardware store near where I lived opened its doors and told volunteers and first responders to hurry in, pick up shovels, picks and anything they wanted to assist in uncovering possible survivors in the rubble.”
Patrick said that he didn’t cry then and didn’t for a long while.
“I don’t know why,” he said in a low voice, after gatheringour tour group around him on the hallowed grounds of the 9/11 Memorial, “but when President Obama announced that Bin Laden had been captured, it was like a flood came over me.”
Earlier in the day, Patrick took us on an open-top bus tour of mid-Manhattan, describing the beauty, culture and even warts of his beloved city. He took us on a boat ride on the Hudson and East rivers, past the Statute of Liberty to Battery Park, just south of the 9/11 site. There I learned that my ancestors, immigrants from Germany, passed through a former fort constructed to prevent a British invasion in 1812, Castle Clinton, and not Ellis Island as I had thought.
We meandered from the park, passing Wall Street andTrinity Church. In the Trinity Church cemetery, we paused before the tombstone of Alexander Hamilton. We also passedthe beautiful FDNY Memorial Wall, located at FDNY Engine 10 Ladder 10, directly across from the World Trade Center site.
At the 9/11 site, there are two identical memorials, each two acres in size, in the footprints of the twin towers. The names of those who perished are etched on the memorials, arranged in “meaningful adjacencies” based on friendships, company affiliations, place of death and requests from family members. Arepository holds the remains of victims, providing, as the 9/11 Memorial website explains, “a dignified and reverential setting for the remains to repose — temporarily or in perpetuity — as identifications continue to be made.”
The place is sobering and chilling.
A new tower, soaring 1,776 feet, is American’s new tallest building. Smaller towers are under construction.
Patrick brought it all to life.
Ray Speckman can be found in heavy thought, remembering where he was on 9/11, or at email@example.com.