A sparkling ocean of diamonds were scattered evenly on black velvet in front of us, just for us. The lights crawled up and down boulevards, bioluminescent ants navigating hairline streets, their horns and sound pollution reduced to a whooshing static at 1,250 feet. I imagined a 10,000 ton ape hanging around where I was standing, swatting military biplanes out of the air as if they were persistent gnats. I looked at my sister and smiled. The glisten of New York City glowing upon her face, she smiled back.
“I have an idea,” she says, holding up her Empire State Building skyline guide pamphlet.
Two days earlier, my family was cutting in and out of frenetic New Jersey traffic.
“We should’ve gone to San Juan this year — visited family. It’s too cold up here. Pedro, roll up the window! Are you crazy?”
My mother turned back to look at me from the passenger’s seat, but I was already sticking my head out the window, sucking in the fresh northern air.
“Our country needs patriotism now more than ever,” my Dad lectured. “There’s a new administration, and we as a country need to relearn what a great nation this is. That’s why the family trip is in the States this year. Besides, the kids haven’t been to the ‘Big Apple’ before!”
“Neither have you. And don’t call it that around actual New Yorkers, we already look like tourists enough with our ‘I Love New York’ hats and oversized camera.”
I laughed at my sister’s observation and tightened my hat.
“I like ‘em. Come on, have tourist pride,” I said, winking at a group of girls in a passing car and subsequently getting unanimous looks of disgust. I closed the window.
It was somewhere before 7th Avenue hit Broadway where I started feeling something strange. The sun was in the winter of its daily life, dying off behind the shroud of the concrete jungle, shooting its rays off of the glass windows of massive skyscrapers. Bathed in twilight, I stood on the sidewalk and saw every kind of person. Old fathers in checkered scarves, young couples with foggy glasses, Russian babies with cotton-candy-pink clenched fists. Every one of them walking, rolling, standing in place, and coexisting. Every one of them was once a baby, had food fights and mothers and older brothers or black and white puppies. If one was to stand here and see all these people, they could sense a pride that remembers tragedy, buildings crashing down and billowing smoke, but connects every last person. Pride wasn’t that strange feeling I had come upon, however.
I had come upon love. Love for a people. Love for a city. I felt a love just for the sake of love because it was what every last one of us needed.
I finished folding the skyline guide into a paper airplane and held it up to my sister.
“Is this what you wanted?”
She grinned. “Let’s do it.”
I tried to sense in what direction the wind was blowing on the roof, and feeling confident, I tossed the paper airplane off the side of the Empire State Building. However, I grossly miscalculated the toss and the powerful wind crumpled it up, sending it flying to the right, passing the other spectators on the roof, who now thought they were sharing a rooftop with a couple of extreme litterers.
Laughing, I turned from my sister to the glorious view and felt that strange feeling again. I loved the people. I loved the surprisingly powerful wind. I loved New York.
I decided to keep the hat.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.