New York City is my New York City

September 11, 2021

By Maya Smith

I found a journal entry from a couple of weeks after September 11th, 2001 and I wanted to share it with you. I was a first year in college, wrestling with the catastrophic pain emanating from my favorite place in the world following the devastating attacks that took place that day. I was also experiencing my first big breakup. New York is my home, a place I hold dearly in my heart.

Recently, I had the opportunity to return to New York City for the first time since the pandemic began and my husband, we’ve been together for over 16 years, said to me, “You are my New York City” as I got ready to leave. I smiled, hugged him and replied, “New York City is my New York City” and I happily left for the airport, after assuring him that I loved him, too.

An excerpt from my journal in the weeks following September 11, 2021:

“As my boyfriend and I stood in the middle of Canal St., he started photographing the events in New York City. Surrounded by tanks and armed military, he bobbed and weaved behind police tape and took pictures of shoes left in doorways that had literally been run out of and were now covered in ash and soot. He captured the faces of the residents of Lower Manhattan, staring into the sky as if they weren’t sure it was over and simultaneously doubting what they had already seen. He carefully photographed post-its in the Union Square subway station, as if he had a personal responsibility to each mother, leaving her phone number to a son that had not yet returned home or the homemade pictures from children who celebrated the heroes their firefighter parents must have been that day. He was my first call on the morning of September 11th and as our own parents tried desperately to reach us in our respective dorm rooms, we stood in front of TVs in silence. Two weeks earlier on August 24th, we sat on a bench at the base of the World Trade Center celebrating our two-year anniversary. We looked up and said that one day, we’d make it to Windows On The World once we had more than just babysitting and lifeguarding money to scrape together.”

Less than one month after that pretend grown up date night at the base of the World Trade Center, the world changed – both in the teenage way of contending with heartbreak and in deep, earth shifting, shaping, and shattering ways. For the big and little ways our earths shatter every day, my life is now dedicated to build a kinder, braver world – in New York City and everywhere – and I am honored to donate to New York Says Thank You Foundation, an organization dedicated to survivor empowerment in disaster relief, education, and the arts, in the name of my true loves; my husband Dave, our children Hunter and Logan, and New York City.