The Arrival at JFK

Essay by utunesHigh School, 11th gradeA+, September 2006

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Every time I used to hear anything related to New York it made me long to leave all of my responsibilities and head off to the city of dreams. A trip to New York had been a dream of mine since I was a little boy. I have always wanted to visit the place of tall buildings, history, and where culture is intertwined with its people. I had wanted to live the fast pace life of a New Yorker, where I could stand outside and see, smell, and taste all of the experiences that this city has to offer. I had been building and building this ideal image in my mind for so long. If I ever get to New York, will I be disappointed by the city that never sleeps? The city that is a part of almost every movie I watch. Can New York live up to the expectations I had created?

In the June of 2001 my dream of visiting New York came to life.

I could hardly contain my excitement to finally live the life of a New Yorker. The plane ride itself was torture, because of my bubbling anticipation to get to my destination. Once the captain announced the descent into the New York airport my stomach became a bundle of knots. My family and I had trouble finding our way through the airport. We had finally found our luggage and met with my cousin that was waiting for us at the airport. As we left JFK, we drived through Manhattan. It was a wonder, everything I had thought of and much more.

September came and it was time for school. At the time I didn't know any English. It was September 11 and I was at the middle school registering. I decided not to stay in class that day and came home with my mom. I turned on the television and every channel was giving the same video, the twin towers burning. It was the same twin towers that I had visited a week before and had taken photographs of them. First I thought it was a movie but later I learned that it was terrorist attack.

But five years haven't been enough time for the effects of the attack to wear off for New Yorkers. As I walk through New York train stations, my eyes are constantly at backpacks and luggage with a constant awareness that one bag filled with explosives could throw the city into crisis once again. The subway is talked to be the next big target in terrorist attacks. Almost every time I ride the train, you hear announcements such that personal luggage is subject to random searches by the police. The MTA slogan, "If you see something, say something", appears almost everywhere in the train.

It was the end of a typical school day and I was walking to the train station with a friend of mine. As part of the random backpack searches, the police officer stopped us. He told me that I can go while he opened my friends backpack. It made me think of what appearing qualities do the officers look for so you can be a "random" choice to be searched. It probably has to do with the nationality or race of the person.

Another day I was taking the subway with 2 of my friends and we were going to Manhattan for the day. One of my friends got supposedly picked randomly for a backpack search. It reminded me of what I had thought before on the qualities that make you applicable for random searches. I came to a conclusion that these searches were not random. They officers were obviously trained on whom to pick for random searches. To me this does not seem very right to be prejudice about people based on their appearance but I guess that it is for Homeland Security to make sure that our ride is safe.

After a long pleasant trip to Albania this summer, it was time for me and my brother to fly back to New York. We were passing the security for the flight from Albania to Hungary, the security and control level was moderate. When we had to transfer to the flight to JFK, security was very tight. The theme of random searches appeared again. People were constantly being asked to open their bags even though they went through the scanners. This search was random as well but something was different from my previous experiences. I was picked as one of the random to be searched. Security was tight throughout the process until we passed the final document check. Then I knew I had arrived home and all of that had made me feel safe.

Life as a New Yorker has not changed much from pre September 11 attacks. I had not had much experience of life before the attacks. My timing of arrival to New York did not allow for me to experience the life before the terrorist attacks. But as I continue to experience it after, it makes me imagine of what it was before. I can see a change in the life of a New Yorker.