Mindy Memories

Saturday, July 22, 2006

New York City history

I finally finished this one yesterday. I've been chipping away at it on the way to and from work and finally finished it. It's a very good book, but I'll have to read it again some day to pick up what I missed, as there's sooooo much information. The problem with reading books on the train is that sometimes there are very sad parts and I try not to cry in front of people, who would think I've lost it. The last part of the book talks about how so many people willingly gave up their lives because they were so sure that this war would leave Europe secure and that by fighting this terrible war such a terrible war would never have to be fought again. Of course, we all know that WWI was the setup for WWII, even though they thought at the time that it was "the war to end all wars." Seeing their feelings written down in this way, though, really got to me.

So, now I'm reading a book that's less dense but very interesting nonetheless. It's Downtown: My Manhattan by Pete Hamill. One of the items on my 101 list is to read one of his books, and this recently came out in paperback and I grabbed it. I'm going to have to read some of his other works, as he's a joy to read. This book talks about lower Manhattatn, where he's lived most of his life except for when he was a young child living in Brooklyn. I became interested in him after seeing his interviews on my New York documentary. He just seemed so downt-to-earth and is a son of Irish immigrants, and the way he talks and tells a story is really interesting. His writing is the same -- I feel like he's sitting next to me, telling me about the people he sees while spending some time at The Battery, and talking about what he sees there naturally leads him into talking about the history of that part of the city.

It's very strange, this fascination I have recently acquired regarding NYC's history. NYC is not someplace I actually care to visit, as I can't handle all the crowds. It's a shame, because I really would like to see some of these places, and maybe I'll force myself to take a train ride and stay a night or two once in a while, since it's pretty close to Philly. I went there once for 5 days when I was in college. I was there for a college press conference, and by the time I left I was soooo ready to leave lol. I just can't take all the people in one place; being in the middle of a big crowd when I can't see out makes me very anxious.

Anyway, I grew up hating the city. When I was a kid, I constantly heard my dad bemoaning the fact that a lot of the taxes he paid went to those who lived in NYC. I also remember him seeing the "city people" taking pictures of the beautiful deer eating our crops across the road. It didn't sit well with him. :)

I guess it was after 9/11 and watching this documentary for the first time on tv that I started getting interested in the city. It's interesting to see how so many things that happened there really did set the pace for the rest of the country. The New Deal started in NYC after the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory fire, which was absolutely horrific. One creepy part of this documentary is that, since it was finished in 2001 before 9/11, there are strange little foreshadowings and ironies in the piece that would have meant nothing before 9/11, but much more after. One of the worst parts about the Triangle fire was that the women were on the 8th and 9th floors and couldn't get out because the exits were closed, presumably so that union reps could not get in. Of course, the women couldn't get out and ended up having to jump out of the building. The reform movement started after this, they say, so that something so horrific would never happen in the city again. I couldn't help but think that it happend almost 100 years later, with people jumping from much higher up to escape a fire. There are quite a few little moments like that, that bring home what happened on 9/11.

I guess that's why I've become interested. On a board I visit we were discussing how that day affected people differently, and for many people in the country it was "business as usual" a few days later. I wasn't sure what she meant by that and asked her, and during our conversation I discovered she meant that in NYC, people still look scared if they hear an overhead plane flying lower than usual, etc. I don't really do that here in Philly, although when I hear a plane flying lower than usual I do think of that day, but I don't get that scared feeling. But, in many ways, my personal life didn't go back to "business as usual." That day changed me, granted not in as profound a way as those who witnessed it firsthand, and I don't want to make it look like I suffered what they did -- there's just no way that's true. However, I have become more weepy since then. I don't cry for no apparent reason, but I tend to tear up more often when something sad happens in a movie, or in a book. Heck, I nearly bawled at the end of Harry Potter 6. The Triangle fire incident really upsets me when I watch a documentary about it, or read about it. So, for me it has never been "business as usual" since that day. While I don't want to EVER negate the feelings of New Yorkers on that day, or those in or near Washington, D.C for that matter, I don't want them to think that it didn't matter to me and that it was no big deal. I've cried my tears for their loss on that day, believe me.

I have very mixed feelings about this new movie coming out, World Trade Center. I won't be seeing it, I can tell you that right now. Maybe I'll be able to watch it in 10 years, I don't know. When I want to memorialize that day, I have the additional DVD that was made after the attacks and added to that NY documentary. It's 3 hours of narrative and interviews about the rise and fall of the towers and is magnificent. I'd much rather watch that, the truth about what happened, than a Hollywood version of that day. That being said, for some people this may be good for them. Perhaps it will help some of the families and friends of victims have some closure? I really don't know, as I'm not in their shoes, but if this movie helps any of them then who am I to say it should be banned? I'm not one to think any movie, book, newspaper, etc. should ever be banned, anyway. If you don't want to see it, don't see it. If you want to protest that it was made, I'm not going to stop you, but neither am I going to join you.

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