The year 9/11 happened, I was actually living in New York for the summer. I won a prestigious fellowship with the International Radio & Television Society. I say won because it really was like winning the lottery. Every year 35 college students are picked from across the nation. Hundreds apply for a chance at living rent-free in New York, getting an entertainment internship, a paycheck, access to network with all the big wigs in the city, expenses-paid dinners, concerts, and activities, and the chance to be groomed through what I call entertainment boot camp. The process was long and arduous. You had to apply a year in advance, fill out a 20-page questionnaire, write a personal essay, and pass 2 phone interviews. I later found out the year I applied over 1000 people applied. I was one of the lucky few to be chosen and only the 2nd or 3rd to attend from my university since its inception.
Luckily for me, the duration of the fellowship was only June through August. I left about 2 weeks before 9/11 hit although others chose to stay behind. Although New York wasn't the place for me to settle down, I did enjoy the city and living there. Who could argue with living 30 floors off the ground in the NYU Water Street dorms across from South Street Seaport at the end of the hall with the view of the bridges and the water? The view was magnificent, the dorms were nice, and most of all, it was completely free to me and I was getting paid to be in New York to learn!
From my time there, I made friends and one of them was a NYC EMT. We were the same age and had become good friends. The morning of 9/11 I was back in California and was up very early in the morning for some reason. It's really strange that I just decided to wake up as I'm a night person and only wake up when I have to. That day, I had no reason to be up, especially that early. And I turn on the TV and watch the horrific scenes unfold. So I call my friend and he's actually making his way down there. I'm worried about him, about the people I know in NYC, and I feel so helpless. The traffic was so bad it took hours for him to arrive so he didn't witness the early stages of it and only the aftermath.
The news coverage, even online, was obviously extensive and I'll always remember a photo of a Mrs. Field's store front that had people running for their lives. There was chaos, dust, debris, and fear written on their faces. And when I saw that picture I recognized immediately that it was the one right near where I lived and where we hung out. And how just a few weeks prior to that photo being taken, I was there on that street, in that neighborhood and how we always looked up to the Twin Towers to find our way back home on our many walking tours of NYC instead of taking a cab home.
I haven't been back to NYC since. I still know people there and they always ask me to come visit, but a part of me is scared to see and experience directly the enormity of the situation and the loss of my glorious, innocent experience living in NYC. I have so much joy and gratefulness about my experience there that to see Ground Zero would tarnish my image of New York in my mind's eye and color it with depressing hues.
My IRTS Fellowship prepared me for post-grad life, my career, and adulthood and was the first of many amazing experiences to come. It's been 8 years already and right or wrong, I don't know if I'll ever go back... I just have no desire.