I am born and raised in New York City, I’ve seen I love NY plastered on cups, plastic bags, postcards, just about anything you can put print on. New Yorkers wear our city like a badge of pride. Most of us are very proud to be from here and truly mean it when we say we love NY.
This weekend has me experiencing reflective and grateful emotions. Emotions about 9/12/2001, the day after the towers were hit and how affected I was by what I saw as a child and how proud I was to see the entire world rally behind our state. In our hour of need, I saw so many people do whatever it took to help others and foster very much needed compassion for the horrid moment. I remember how inspired I was by this and took it upon myself to use my confirmation service hours to collect supplies for first responders at the World Trade Center who needed them. New York proved that in the face of tragedy we can come together when it really counts.
I also have a lot of gratitude for my city for the events from this year as well. We all collectively went through hell and are doing our best daily to bounce back. There are so many things I never thought I’d get to do or see again. The NY Pause gave me a lot of perspective for just how much I love NY and all it has to offer. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind of it all and only fixate on all the inconveniences that come with day-to-day life in a city. The saying “You never know what you have until it’s gone” applies here. I found myself missing the commute, the ability to be in the mix of all different types of people, the subway, and the coffee on the go. I was surprisingly sad about all of the loss of all of these things. I was devastated to see Broadway go dark and see Times Square appear abandoned.
A lot of these dramatic retroactively but it’s the perspective I needed and the restart to falling back in love with my beautiful city. We are a place of diversity of all kinds, silent acceptance where it’s not always seen, and a haven for anyone who’s willing to put the work into their dreams. Every activity I get to resume, I resume with gratitude beyond anything I’ve imagined. I am thankful for the little things again and so proud to be a New Yorker.
I’m including an old post explaining some of the things I love about New York. It’s an old unjaded post but I feel like it’s so fun to look back on because it explains some of my favorite reasons why I am so in love with this city. Feel free to check out if you’d like. New York, New York, it’s a helluva town! (No, it really is!)
There is always the moment in history that people will retroactively ask you about. Questions like where were you when it happened? What were you doing? How did you feel? September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center towers fell was my major historical experience. I can remember where I was, what I was doing and how I felt. I was 12 years old on that day, I was supposed to be in school but I had stayed home not feeling well. I slept most of the morning away with cramps but was awoken by Dad after the second tower was hit. He explained to me what had happened and that it was important that I wake up to see all of this. I went into my living room and sat by the TV and watched it all unfold. My mother was already getting my brother from school and I was sitting at home paraylzed by the sight in front of me. I’d never experienced anything like this before. I had only read about events like this in books which led my already anxious mind to a million questions, would there be a war like I had learned about in school books? Would this unknown enemy be here to stay? I was just shy becoming a teenager so my mind couldn’t wrap my head around any of it. I had a lot of questions and very few answers to them were immediate.
Now as a 32 year old woman, I have been working in the Manhattan area for 14 years walking the same path that so many did on that day. Every year I find myself feeling extra somber on the anniversary but always grateful to have never met the same fate. Twenty years is a long time but I know as a New Yorker that I will never forget that day. I will never forget the fear I felt, I will never forget the uncertainty, but I mostly will never forget how New York banded together to help each other anyway they could. How food drives started, how collection of medical supplies began, and how so many people helped each other get home when the city was in chaos. Looking back on that day as an adult and when I share the stories with the generations after, I always moved by the generousity of others in times of tragedy. We were all fearful and afraid and so many had been lost, but hard times created so many kind stories.
To anyone who experienced this first hand, my heart will always be with you.
One hand in the air for the big city
Street lights, big dreams, all lookin' pretty
No place in the world that could compare
- Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z (Ft. Alicia Keys)
When Covid hit, New York gradually started to shut down some of the biggest staples that kept the heart beating in our Big Apple. Landmark after landmark went down, but when Broadway went dark I knew that this pandemic was serious. I took the loss of the great white way harder than I wanted to admit. Theater was a part of the magic that my younger self found in New York City. It was my own oasis of a glittery escape in my own backyard. I pictured the normally lit signs dim as the streets lay deserted with no usual foot traffic and life to pound the pavement. Sad wasn’t the word, I was devastated with no control of what was to come and it was the scariest feeling to watch my city slowly go dim.
I know we aren’t out of the woods yet. The threat still remains real but we are figuring out every day a little more pieces to the puzzle. Science is working double time and the lights are coming back to my beautiful hometown.
The last time we saw a show was November 25, 2019. Katharine McPhee was back on Broadway reprising her role as Jenna Hunterson in Waitress. We’d seen the show twice by then but couldn’t resist going back to see our girl tear the roof off the place again. We were 13 days into our new marriage already kicked in the teeth by the thoroughs of life. We needed an escape desperately and Waitress more than delivered. Our mutual love for the arts is one of the many things my wife and I share and this show was no different. Life was good in that evening, there was no reality, no stress, we were having a date we both needed.
Today after 650 days since our last show and 555 days into the Covid-19 pandemic in New York, I can happily and gratefully say that we made our return to Broadway and back to the diner. I felt like a kid on Christmas. A bundle of nerves being exposed to crowds again (we were all masked and vaccinated or tested) but excited to be back in the theater. It’s been almost a year and a half since I’ve seen Times Square and today I took it all in like I was seeing it for the first time. Waitress was revived and brought to the Barrymore Theatre directly across the street from its original home at Brook Atkinsons. I’ve dreamed about this day, I’ve mourned the idea that lights would never come on again and I cannot explain how happy I am to have spent time inside of a Broadway show again. The world has a ways to go but these gifts of what was once reminds me to never take advantage of what you have in front of you because it can be gone in an instant. I am thankful, humbled. Thanks for taking to me to the moon, Waitress. I’ve missed you and I’ve missed my city more than I could explain.
Up until 2014 my experience in the LGBTQIA+ community was limited. I met my wife on MySpace. Some of you may have even been Tom’s friend too. Our presence in the community remained mostly digital even after meeting in person. There weren’t many resources in our youth, beyond Hillary Duff defending our identities as more than a slur. June 2014 marked our first Pride together. It was one year after Edie Windsor struck down DOMA. History was alive and witnessed before our own eyes. We were both eager to be amongst the community to celebrate history being made but also the intense love that was growing between us. The last Sunday in June came and we got up early to get a good spot to see the parade in Midtown and waited for it to begin. Our experience quickly started to turn from a patient waiting moment to immediate excitement. while we stood waiting for the parade to begin.
The Grand Marshal’s that year were Laverne Cox and Jonathan Groff. I am a huge fan of both so when my wife asked Jonathan Groff to take a picture with me I was speechless that he agreed. He was as handsome and good natured as I imagined and I was on cloud nine. As a millennial and Gleek, my heart exploded at the encounter and the day only continued to get better from there.
The parade started and we were engulfed by the community and its openness. The streets were packed with people like we have never seen before. Despite being out both of us remained passive in public in fear of being hassled for being openly affectionate with each other. To see so many people simply being free was a life changing experience for me. It gave a younger me the strength to live her truth as openly and as often as I could. The fear still presides but the memory of literally THOUSANDS of people walking up and down the streets of Manhattan with confidence in a parade of love of themselves and each other remains the North Star to me every time I want to question my ability to be open. My relationship has always been something to celebrate and be proud of and that experience will always engrain a sense of bravery and pride inside of me.
Today is the 51st annual Pride Parade in NYC. While I’ve decided not to go, my heart is with those young, old, and closeted and all, who could have the same experiences as I did that day. Whether it’s meeting your favorite LGBT celebrity, or finally being in person doing all the things you never thought you’d have the guts to do. Enjoy your time, be kind, be respectful to each other and HAPPY PRIDE NYC!