9/11 tragedy happened when I was holidaying in Manhattan. It was my very first trip to the US. On the day when it happened, I stood in front of Times Square watching news on the big screen in complete silence with a large crowd. Having witnessed such a huge event; same as everybody else, my shock and sadness was beyond words.
The day after, September 12th, everything was closed. The city was in a state of shock, uncertainty and mourning – as was I. As a tourist, I had to drop my original plan, which was going to see ‘The Lion King’ on Broadway. Theatres and museums were all closed. Suddenly, I had no where to go… Despite it being the day after such an unimaginable attack on the US soil, it was also a sunny, beautiful and very warm early Autumn day in Manhattan. I did not want to spend my day sitting in front of TV watching more sad news; which I had done the night before. So I decided to go for a walk to Central Park.
In choosing between a Ruby Mae black cotton vest with jeans and a Plein Sud silver silk floral dress; I went for the floral number. The colours and the prints of the floral were very soft and subtle, in another word, it’s not overtly cheerful. ‘I’d wear it as a memorial dress today.’ I thought.
Manhattan is a great walking city. From where I was staying at that time – 38th Street East; between the first and the second Avenue – it’s only a short distance to walk to Central Park. As I walked through Fifth Avenue, it surprised me how empty it was! It seemed like it was only me as there were very few others walking around. There was hardly any car driving by… I had never seen Manhattan this dead, deserted and empty before! ‘The news said it!’ I thought it. ‘It’s a ghost town here!’
As I walked along, I gazed at all those American flags hanging in the shop windows – they were everywhere!! Suddenly, there was a guy walked pass me. He then turned back and smiled at me. He was a tall slim African American man. He soon walked away. Within few minutes, the same guy reappeared from behind. I realized that he must had walked around the block and came back to me…
“Hello!” He smiled. “We’ve met twice in one day, it must be fate!” He said.
Oh well, I did think his approach was kind of cute!
‘Haha!’ ‘Is that so?’ I smiled too.
His name was Joseph and we started chatting. Just like me, Joseph was going to spend the day at Central Park and even brought a rug to rest on. The 9/11 event… it seemed brought everyone closer together. Joseph and I sure talked about the tragedy and how much it affected us as we walked along. When we got there, we realized that lots of New Yorkers were thinking the same thing as we were – spending the day at Central Park.
“You know what grabbed my attention when I saw you?” Joseph asked, while he pulled out a rug from his bag.
I had no idea.
“Well, the fact that you wore such a pretty floral dress!” “You walked so proudly… It’s like you were sending the message out there to the world that your spirit was not beaten…”
“They want to damage our confidence and inject fear to our daily life, BUT look at you! Here you are! In your pretty dress and still living your life!!”
‘Wow! How refresh to hear Joseph’s view just because I favoured this floral dress!’ I thought.
“Remember, LIVING WELL, is the best revenge.” Said Joseph.
Joseph and I exchanged post cards for months after I returned to Sydney in October the same year. Ever since that afternoon, I often quoted his “Living well, is the best revenge.” to others.
And who knew? When I picked out THAT floral dress on that day, that it could say so much….
Photography by : Road Wang