CF junior returns from New York after weekend bombings in Chelsea

The weekend of Sep. 20, I had flown from Minneapolis to LaGuardia in New York City, to spend the weekend with my sister and some family friends from all over the country, but little did I know that this relaxing trip would turn into a stress-filled and eye opening encounter with tragedy after last weekend’s bombings in New York.

The nine people I was with were all from New York, Denver, Minneapolis or Boston. We all met up and rented a three bedroom apartment on West 27th Street and Sixth Avenue in Chelsea, a bustling neighborhood in the lower west side of the island.

I was looking forward to a great time catching up with everyone throughout the weekend and enjoying each other’s company in the city. We planned to see two broadway shows as well as shop and eat at some of our favorite spots in Manhattan.

The morning of the 18th started out just as I had expected it to. I woke up at nine, had a bagel, chatted with our friends and headed to grab coffee at my favorite coffee place in the city, Gregory’s Coffee. We walked to Times Square as a group, and four of us caught a matinee of Hamilton. After seeing Hamilton, we took a trip to TriBeCa to have dinner. We did not have time after the show to go all the way back to Chelsea and change before our seven o’clock dinner reservations, so the nine of us ended up having to take a cab from the Theater District straight to the restaurant.

During dinner, my sister had read a headline saying there was an explosion in Chelsea, and I did not think much of it until many of our phones began to ring with texts from friends and family asking if we were OK. After a great meal and lots of chatting, we learned that the explosion had happened at approximately 8:30 p.m. on 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue, about four blocks from our apartment on 27th. As far as we knew, it was an accident and we were thankful that no one had been killed.

After dinner, we hailed some cabs to the West Village in Greenwich to go to a rooftop bar at The Jane Hotel. At the Jane I learned from a door man that The Jane was the same hotel the Titanic survivors stayed at when they were brought back to New York.  As I stood on the roof and gazed out over the Hudson River at the Jersey City lights and the night sky, I wondered what was really going on and the severity of the situation. In my head I played connect the dots, recounting the chronological order of my experiences that night, trying to find a relationship between our whereabouts and the explosions.

My sister and our family friend Karen soon began to feel the expense of our heavy walking around the city, so we were going to get a cab home to Chelsea, not realizing the severity of what was going on, but we ultimately decided against it, not because of the bombs, but because we wanted to all go home at the same time.

Annabel, Karen and two others got a cab while the rest of us made an attempt to catch the subway home, soon coming to find that our route was shut down due to the explosion. We were forced to begin the trek up to Chelsea from Greenwich Village. The longer we walked, the more we uncovered about the situation. As we got closer to 23rd Street block by block, mutters of stories that flooded the streets became accompanied by packs of police cars and reporters.

We returned to Chelsea to find the blocks surrounding the explosion wrapped in bright yellow police tape. I sipped on a Slurpee as our friend Randi and I approached an NYPD officer to ask him how we could get back to the apartment on 27th. We were informed by the officer that it would be hours before we were even allowed in the vicinity of the street because they were searching the area with dogs and robots. Hundreds of civilians and press stood by with cell phones and cameras capturing the action as groups of police and men in suits hovered the area.

We attempted to walk up a few blocks and then cut across, but our path was met with “Do Not Cross”  tape and a wall of officers once again. The five of us were separated from the rest of our group, so we continued walking around until we finally found them at a McDonald’s, the windows lit up with reflections of red and blue lights that flooded the streets.

I remember very clearly walking past a small restaurant with the doors open, a woman seated at a table, cradling a crying baby with a suitcase at her side as she sobbed into her cellphone. That vision was a slap in the face to me, and I don’t think I will ever be able to forget it. Although no one was killed, the bombs left citizens and tourists alike rattled and anxious for the next move because many of us felt there was bound to be one, and there was nothing we could do.

McDonald’s became a temporary residence for not only myself, but many New Yorkers who could not return to their apartments. After three hours of lounging in McDonald’s, I began to accept that I would sleep over in a fast food restaurant for the first time in my life. It was during this time that a chorus of cell phones rang out throughout the restaurant. I looked at my nearly-dead phone to see an alert from the NYPD glowing in my face. The alert warned citizens of a suspicious package, thought to be a bomb, found on 27th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues — the block of our rented apartment.

Everyone around me seemed to share the same consciousness; the fear that was contagious in the streets because everything that was going on was extremely vague and no one knew for sure what was going to happen.

Though as the night went on it began clear that I would not return to the apartment until the early hours of the morning at the earliest, there was still a part of me that held a sliver of hope that I would get to sleep in an actual bed. We abandoned camp at McDonald’s and began to walk around to try to find a hotel with vacancy.

Every garbage bag or box I passed on the street caused me to be engulfed in a wave of anxiety. The fear seemed to inch closer and closer to my consciousness the more time I spent out on the street listening to police sirens.

Soon I was in bed at a nearby hotel, my feet firey after scouring the streets for hours for somewhere to sleep that was more decent than the floor of a McDonald’s. I watched the news and saw for the first time a picture of an improvised explosive device that had been accidentally disabled by two thieves who had stolen the suitcase it was stowed in.

Terrorism and violence had always been a looming fear in my personal life, and though I did not directly experience the bombing, it made me grip the fear of terrorism more than I ever had before.The fear of terrorism is part of daily life now for many people, including myself. It’s hard to live life in this day and age without picturing every horrific scenario possible because the fear of Americans is so exploited by media. Terrorism is becoming just another one of modern America’s daily afflictions and a common expression of feelings between human beings, and it is always knocking at the door of Americans’ fears and opening the door to an age of anxiety.

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