New York City

New York City

Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

I remember that day clearly.

I was 11 years old, standing and singing in choir class at my middle school. In the midst of our song, another teacher came in and disrupted us saying: “One of the towers went down.”

At the time, I didn’t know what it meant. To be honest, I am unsure why I remember that day so clearly in my head. I know that day, today, is significant for us as Americans; we remember it every year, but I was still so young at the time, I wonder why my brain chose to select that day to remember vividly. Perhaps it was because of the disruption it caused afterward.

Afterward, we were sent home early on busses. Only after, however, I saw the second plane fly into the towers while on TV since class finished early and the teacher decided to turn on the news. When that happened, there was a speech he gave (after turning off the TV), that told us everything would be alright. Shortly after, the announcement came on that we could leave and that our parents could come get us or we could take the busses. My mom came to get me (she worked at the high school not far away).

I am writing this post today as I reflect back on my childhood. A whole 18 years have passed since that day—the span of an adult. Surely, I have matured by now, grown to understand the significance by now and realize why that day is so significant for Americans by now.

Since then, I am trying to remember another moment as significant in my life as that day. A day where the world stopped and shook and trembled at the injustices done to the humankind and of the lives lost in an act of terrorism.

I can’t think of any.

There are other dates that I remember, sure, but those have been aided in the memory process by pictures, videos, and the sort. There were no pictures from this day, only my memory. And, as I was talking to my dad today, even a colleague, it seems that every American knows exactly where they were that day when the planes hit the Twin Towers.

Same as me, I am sure New York City has made an indelible impression on others more positive than that of September 11th. In general, I believe New York City is just one of those cities that always makes an impression on people whether in the negative ways (the hustle and bustle, the perceived rudeness, the expensiveness, etc.) or positive ways (Broadway, the lights, the cultural diversity, the opportunities, etc.)

This September 11th, as I think back about the Twin Towers which called New York City their home for twenty-eight years before their demise, I also think back on the city of New York and my memories of it from the three times I have been there. As Gabriel Marquez says in his book, “Living to Tell the Tale” life is “Not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” I am a far way off from writing an autobiography, but I do believe that New York City will end up in there should I ever chose to tell my tale. For now, it is merely this blog post and my three experiences with New York City.

Trip #1

My first trip to New York City was a few years before the Twin Towers were destroyed. I was with my parents and we went around the city to see the flashing lights and made our way to see the important historical monuments like the Statue of Liberty. Looking back on it, I was happy to have had this opportunity to climb the Statue of Liberty and see Ellis Island at this moment in life because when I next returned to New York City, the Statue of Liberty was closed.

During this time, I remember riding up the elevator of the Empire State Building and being afraid of such heights as I wandered around with my parents on the roof.  

Besides that, I don’t remember much of the trip because of I was so young. I do, however, remember what I look like and I will never forget it because it is one of the markers of my awesome transformation. Below is a picture of me on the battlefields of Virginia (my family also visited this area on the way to New York).

Big me
This was me during my first trip to the East Coast. I am around 11 years old in this picture.

Trip #2

A year after the Twin Towers fell, in between the summer of 7th and 8th grade, I traveled to New York City for my second time. This time it was to visit monuments around the area as a part of a school field trip while I was in 8th grade. That was rather an influential trip for me because it marked a change in my social ability. It was the start of me interacting with peers more and becoming more “normal” as you may say. In elementary school and middle school, I was obese (as you can see in the above image). At this moment in time, I was still chunkier than I am today, but I had started my growth spurt and was slowly slimming out.  

There were girls on the trip with us that sat next to me and the two other classmates I had been paired with and, thinking back on it, it was my first taste of flirting. We took a bus all the way to New York from Wisconsin so there was lots of time to talk and get to know one another. Calvin, one of the guys in my group, was nicknamed Calvin Klein by the girls, and me being not in the “in” crowd didn’t really understand that reference until years later looking back on those experiences in my childhood. The other guy was more of a popular kid as well and a little bit of a flirt. I still stay in contact with him today and is a friend of mine back in the States.

That experience was really neat because, not only did we get to see the aftermath of September 11th, but also, our school trip took us to Washington D.C. to visit the Washington Monument, the White House, and Lincoln Memorial, just to name a few touristic spots.

After this experience, I remember my social ability began to increase. It took its next leaps and bounds while on a mission trip the following summer as I made the important transition between middle school and high school and came to its zenith during the summer that followed after when I took another school trip to Europe. I don’t believe either of these experiences would have been possible without this preliminary trip to New York City. The bus ride, and the forced interaction with peers it provided me, forced a seed of sociality to be planted inside of me.

Trip #3

My final trip to New York City was during December of 2011. I was a junior in college and I already had completed my manuscript, The Trials of the Core. I learned about a writer’s workshop there where we can interact with agents and pitch our ideas to them (and hopefully receive some sort of sponsor). There I met other authors who I still reach out to from time to time as we remain connected on Facebook. More importantly, though, I learned how to sell my book. I was told the secret of the 60-second pitch, and how to write an effective back cover.

I also learned, unfortunately, that the book publishing industry is tough and that my book, although it may be complete, wasn’t ready to be published. I had received preliminary offers of interest from four agents, but none of them liked the story enough within the first chapters to take it further along to a publisher. This is a monumental event because it drove me towards the direction of self-publishing which is now what I have done for books one and two in the Guardian of the Core series.

Guardian of the Core
Both novels so far in the Guardian of the Core series

At one of the lunches at the event, they held a raffle. Out of the two names called, mine was one of them and I won tickets for my mother and I (for she was with me at the event) to go see Alan Rickman’s debut Broadway play “Seminar.” This was truly an unforgettable experience because it has been my first and only Broadway play and it happened to star the very famous Severus Snape of the Harry Potter universe.

Looking back on my trips to New York City, I think it was this third experience that really struck me the most. Also, I can see now why many of my foreign friends from around the globe wish to visit the Big Apple in hopes of taking a bite out of it, although most would settle for just a nibble.

This final trip set in motion for me my determination in publishing my book no matter what. And, one year after this trip, I did so. Since then, I have been writing ever since and am breaking out into other categories of interest. Now I am writing magazine articles, novellas (with one to be released later this year, more on that in a different blog post), and I am a public speaker (more on that in the next blog post).

Michael Thies
Me currently. Author and teacher in China.

Whether New York City knows it or not, it has set my life in motion in a variety of ways, and although I don’t have any roots there, a tree has definitely grown. A tree where the apple of growth hasn’t fallen too far from it yet; on the contrary, it is hanging on the branch ready to be plucked.

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