First time in New York City

As a kid from a very small town and a family that hates big cities, I never got to experience too much of an urban lifestyle. Watching shows like “Friends” with my sister sparked this intense interest in going to New York City someday that refused to let go.
Everything that they were doing seemed so exotic and different from what I was used to. The fact that they could order a pizza and have it delivered right to their door within a half hour was crazy. When we ordered pizza it took forever to get to us, and we had to drive halfway to meet the delivery person. This was something that bugged me as a kid.
There were multiple occasions where my sister and I pitched to our parents that we should go to New York City as a family vacation, all of which were shot down by my parents. My mom loves beach vacations and wants to relax on her time off, and my dad hates crowds and being in cities for too long.
Many years have passed since then, and I have finally become mature enough that my parents trusted me and a friend to go to the Big Apple alone. I say become “mature,” but what I really mean is I look and act mature when I need to. I am just a 5-year-old in a 20-year-old’s body at this point, but they don’t need to know that.
Anyway, we chose spring break to go on our journey, and what great timing. Just when I can finally go to the city of my dreams, the hottest new craze that is sweeping the world comes to town: the coronavirus. That didn’t matter though, and with hand sanitizer in hand we made our way through the city with a list of sights to see and foods to eat. In one day, I was able to get my picture with the Wall Street bull, walk around Central Park, see the Empire State Building and eat a real New York City bagel.
Another highlight was eating at Katz’s Deli, which I knew from a particular scene in one of my favorite movies, “When Harry Met Sally.” We were fortunate to eat at the exact same restaurant and seats as Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan once did. As a total movie nerd, this was the achievement of a lifetime.
Although we had a lot of fun exploring the city, we of course had to visit the 9/11 Memorial site for a couple moments of somber reflection. It’s a tough thing to go and see, but very impactful.
It’s one thing to learn about what happened in class at school, and it’s another thing to watch the videos of the day and feel empathy and sadness for all those who were trapped in the buildings. To be in the exact spot that everything happened and see where the buildings stood is a completely other thing entirely. Everyone responds differently to being there, and I understandably became almost overwhelmingly emotional reading the names of all those who lost their lives that day.
There is a bare spot in the New York City skyline that serves as a reminder of a great national tragedy, but also a reminder of what we can do as a country when we band together to help our fellow Americans. Everyone should go to the memorial at least once in their lives. It’s a powerful experience that I will never forget.
Between the sightseeing, eating and remembrance, I can say that I fully enjoyed my time in New York, and will certainly be returning once my wallet can take another hit like that.
At heart I’m always going to be a country boy to a certain extent, but it is very comforting to know that I have knocked one of my biggest goals off my bucket list. Now, if only I can keep the coronavirus at bay, I can start checking other items off.

BENJAMIN HAYLETT
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