Friday, December 23, 2005

What makes a city most?

Its people. No matter how charming the streets and layout (Amsterdam, Paris), how impressive the skyscrapers and businesses (Tokyo, Chicago) how amazing the natural beauty (Rio, San Francisco) how long and wondrous a history (London, Rome) it is still the character and makeup of the people who live there that make a city.

A city's people can be judged on how they work, live, love, celebrate, mourn, build, cope, shop, sell and speak during the good times and bad.

It is during the trying times though that a city's character, like a good friendship, is truly tested.

Over the last four years I have seen the character of New York rise and shine in a way that has made me even prouder to be a New Yorker than I ever have been, and that is saying a lot.

The way New Yorkers responded and behaved during the transit strike is the most recent example of the way in which we respond with grit, toughness, inventiveness, level headedness, calm in the face of trouble, and true compassion in the face of difficulties.

It can not be emphasized enough what a total shut down of the entire transit system means in terms of the life of this city. If the city's people are the brain and heart of the city, the transit system is the muscle and nervous systems. There is an interdependence of the most real kind here.

All over the city people with cars were picking up strangers and driving them where they needed to be. People adjusted by biking, rollerblading, walking and jogging to and from work. Most of all, the general attitude in the city was "we are used to obstacles, this is just one more, we'll work around it, until the next obstacle is put in our place."

We saw the same attitudes displayed during the great blackout of 2003 and during the 9/11 crisis.

During all three of these trying times New Yorkers showed an incredible capacity for compassion, of helping others and of taking care of our own.

No riots, no public disturbances, no crime waves, no anarchy, just New Yorkers showing a stiff upper lip, a strong spine and a big heart.

Through the loss of our buildings, our power, and our ability to move about we have survived and thrived ever more. The people made it so.