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BENEDICTA Q. RUIZ

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 4/15/2017 |




          The world seems smaller now as technology and communications connect everyone. Modes of transportation make traveling faster and easier to reach our destinations. I might add safer as well with all the security measures in every port of entry and exit as a result of the devastating events of September 11, 2001.
          It was in late 1900's when I first visited New York City, nicknamed as the “Big Apple.” Why it is so is still a mystery to me. I attended the wedding of my niece Karen and fiance, Ricky in New Jersey. The newly weds took me for a half day tour of nearby New York City.  It was raining at that time so we just rode in the car, Karen and Ricky pointing the landmarks through the window. We passed by the World Trade Center and looking up, I was reminded how a French guy, Philippe  Petit walked on tightrope between the Twin Towers building in 1974. He did it so stealthily and illegally at early dawn but it became a world sensation in the morning.
          The rain stopped so at the famous Rockefeller Plaza we got down to take some pictures. Flowering plants and sculpted plants such as bonsai and topiary were on display. We walked to St. Michael's Church across the street, then to the famous Macy's store. No intentions to shop, just to look around and use the comfort rooms.
          My second visit was in May, 2003. We had planned for a “four-sisters” reunion in the USA. Raine, our third sister from Manila, Philippines was visiting her daughter Karen, son in law Ricky and their children who had established their residency in Philadelphia. I, Nini, the youngest arrived from Canada earlier. Our eldest sister Lana and Eve the second, flew from Wyoming and Kansas respectively shortly after. The last time that the four of us were all together was in December, 1997 when we visited our ailing mother in Metro Manila, Philippines.
          Karen asked us to choose between Washington DC or New York City to visit. Unanimously we picked the latter, for the main reason of seeing the site where the horrific event of 9/11 occurred. We  got ready to spend one full day at the “Big Apple”, to ride on the subway trains and walk around on the pavements in order to have a feel of the city.
          We had to walk in pairs for safety's sake, the able sisters to assist the ones with leg problems. Raine with Lana, whose left foot was hurting, and I partnered with  Eve, who had knee pains.  So chronologically by age 1 and 3 together and 2 and 4 together. That was the origin of the “Odds and Evens” as we eventually called ourselves. A spontaneous protocol that made us laugh heartily whenever Karen and Ricky checked on us.
          Ricky parked the vehicle at a garage then we walked to the nearest subway station. First stop was Hudson River for a courtesy call to Lady Liberty. The clerk selling subway day passes was totally out of printed tickets, so Karen had to fall in line to get them at the automated ticket machines.            Following the leaders, we swiped our passes for the turnstiles to let us in. No problem for us who went first but Lana could not get through. She was not quick enough to push her body through the turnstile at the sound of the buzzer. She swiped again, no opening. An older lady who was watching her mentioned she had to wait a bit longer since the turnstiles were programmed so one ticket cannot be used by multiple persons.  Still on the third try she could not get in.  We were all getting anxious, particularly Lana. The lady approached the clerk to let her into the gate where strollers and wheelchairs pass through.  She was in luck! All of us sighed with relief. We thanked and waved goodbye to the lady What a sweet angel she was.
          People moved fast to catch the subway trains. Cold stares everywhere, bumps come from, well, people in a hurry, no time to say sorry. We took our own pace to allow the odds and evens to stay together always. It did not take long for the subway train to Battery Park to come by and we ended sitting on the last cab. Excited for the first ride ever in a New York City subway, we did not understand what the announcement was about. There was a commotion of  people moving through the trains.  Raine noticed the signage that we had to go to the forward section to exit on our desired stop.  As we were rushing to do so, the the trains started moving and the interconnecting doors locked tight. We sat down and exited at the next stop which was four blocks away from the Park.  Ricky asked directions on how to get to Battery Park from the clerk at a corner store.
          Finally the Statue of Liberty was within sight. However, we did not ride on a ferry boat to take us for a close up look and perhaps to go up inside of Lady Liberty because at that time she was getting a “make over.” Instead we watched the performers, artists and chefs, preparing food, like hot dogs of various sizes and sauces, cotton candies, etc.  We bought some over-sized cookies to share with the friendly pigeons.
          Odds and evens had to hook up into each others' arms again for the trek to the site of the former Twin Towers. It was called “Ground Zero” then. On the way we passed by a Metal Globe Sculpture that was partly burned. Close by was a perpetual flame lit as a memorial to lost lives. There were damaged buildings shrouded in tarps still to be demolished, almost two years after the horrific 9/11 event. One event that shook the entire world. One event that will keep our awareness that life is short and nothing is permanent. One event that gave way to our collective consciousness of the good as well as evils lurking in our midst.
          We became solemn as we got closer to the empty space, still being cleared by construction workers. Overwhelming sadness and tears cannot be stopped for what was destroyed and the innocent victims. We said our silent prayers as we saw the cross from the steel bars on site, remnants from one of the towers. How, why and many questions are still needing answers about peace on earth even to this day.   
          We hugged each other before leaving the area. Words unsaid, we held on to our partner's arms tighter, feeling safe and secured. It was when we saw some shrubs with blossoms and pruned trees sprouting new branches and leaves that we spoke admiring the new growth. How miraculous it was for the plants to have survived the intensity of the fires and chemical dusts spewed on them. How miraculous to feel the resiliency of humans, to be able to go on after the tragic event.  We took some photos in the area before heading back to the subway station, making sure that our sister Lana got through the turnstile first.
          We got off at the Grand Central Station. Rush, rush, rush, was the order of the day among the throngs of  people living and working in hectic New York City.  Here we saw the artistic talents of the buskers, magicians and musicians, mosaic paintings on the walls and what ever stuffs New York City was and still is known for as the “City that Never Sleeps”. There were however, as we were informed people with nowhere to live that makes the subway stations their homes.
          We got out of the staircases then walked towards the arts and entertainment areas, or Broadway as they call it, before heading for lunch at a nearby Chinese Restaurant.
          While waiting for our food orders, Karen who was happily observing us siblings interacting, wanted to know who among us was the most “naughty”. Lana corrected her word to “notorious”.  As if on cue we all pointed to Raine, her mother.  That caused an endless laughter as we related her deeds during those days, when we were all growing up and in college. A chance to express our feelings, from the rivalries since childhood to past middle ages, or retirement. We also related the good memories, simple living with our parents. We allowed for the cleansing of our souls. Raine defended herself as being the smartest anyway, because she graduated Magna Cum Laude in college. More laughter ensued. 
          We decided to walk to Central Park to get rid of the excess calories from that big meal. It was refreshing to enjoy the open space, a street away from the towering buildings. Spring flowers and matured trees offered fresh air and artists installed their projects for people to enjoy.  The small lake provided a natural habitat for the ducks and fishes. We sat down on the benches to rest and to check on the aching feet and knees of Lana and Eve.  For the nth time they claimed they were fine. We shared a big salty pretzel and popcorn with the squirrels. Like a peace cup, we sipped from a big bottle of water alternately with our own straws.
          Up and on our feet again to the parking garage, we passed by the Empire State Building. The line up was so long so we opted not to go up to the observation tower. We shopped instead  for souvenirs around Rockefeller Plaza.
          That ended a memorable tour. Us, the “Odds and Evens” had a chance to reflect together, and strengthen our sisterhood. We were grateful to our hosts Karen and Ricky, for a day well spent at the “Big Apple”.

Note:  Names have been modified.           

COPYRIGHT: BQR 07/31/2016

BENEDICTA Q. RUIZ

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