We Can Overcome
Hurrying down the hall on my way to the Biology class with my friend, I heard the oddest comment in my life come out of his mouth. He told me I had “the walk.” Puzzled, I asked him what he meant, and he replied that I had the New Yorker’s walk. In retrospect, I think he meant that I had the swift and strong, yet elegant stride that shows a sense of independence from everyone and everything in the world around me. This wasn’t the only time someone commented on my New Yorker-ness. About a month after moving here from New York City, another friend and I had lunch in the cafeteria, and I noticed him watching how I ate my pizza. Baffled by the peculiar, confused look on his face, I asked him what was wrong. He then gave a long monologue about how, having grown up in the South, he had never seen anybody fold the pizza “New Yorker style” down the middle to hold it while eating. Eating pizza came naturally to me, and I took the comment as a compliment, not taking it much more to heart, because I knew deep in my heart that being a New Yorker meant much more than “the walk” or folding a pizza “New Yorker style.”
I lived in New York City for the first twelve years of my life. Going to a private Catholic elementary school shaped my moral code for my life, and going there helped me stay away from the darker side of the public school system in New York City. The private school’s two major virtues of life, veritas and caritas, sharing and caring, impacted every single student around me, including myself. We learned there to work together, and to strive to help each other out, because we knew that if we needed help, they would be there to help us out. Each of us in the school knew that we could depend on each other through thick and through thin, and there was a real feeling of teamwork among ourselves, even if at that age that meant sharing a glue stick or helping someone carry a stack of books.
Then 9/11 happened. I remember in class how I heard sirens wailing early in the morning nonstop. I shrugged it off, thinking that maybe there was a major fire nearby. Then I saw the video on the television, replayed countless times by every single news channel. It wasn’t just a major fire. It was the World Trade Center. The harsh reality that anybody would be evil enough to do such a thing shocked me. It seemed that nothing good came out of that Attack on America: buildings collapsed, killing and injuring countless innocent first responders, children lost their father or mother, and the center of international trade in New York was left in ruin.
But something good did come out of the colossal destruction. Days after the collapse of the World Trade Center, rescuers continued to look for survivor. Literally thousands of volunteers poured in from all over the state of New York and all over the United States to aid the wounded city. Working around the clock, volunteers cleared the rubble and found the remains of those who died under the towers This work continued for over a year, and their intense work effort astonished me. Their work demonstrated the real sense of community and taught me that community meant more than helping someone with their homework or sharing food with someone who forgot their lunch money. Being a New Yorker meant not only “the walk” or folding a pizza, but even more in that community meant giving yourself up for the benefit of another, no matter who the person is or what the task is. Working together, we can overcome.