The first time I flew into New York city was two months and a day after September 11, 2001. A high-end, well-traveled, generous friend offered to let me share her room at the Trump Towers, and I found a bargain flight that had two stops, one in Phoenix and one in New York. I wasn't really nervous about the flight as much as I was worried about getting a cab. I'd never gotten a cab before, hailing a mystery to me (I had no clue about the cab line up at JFK). I was 40 years old, never had hailed a cab, never had been to New York, and I was going to meet my agent and editor for the first time and do Manhattan.
Security was a nightmare and madhouse, and when my then husband dropped me off at the airport, I saw that the lines snaked around and through and out of the terminal. No matter--I was going. I checked in, stood in the security line, and waited along with the hundreds of other people as we trudged forward in tiny steps.
But then a rumor started whipping up and down the line, something about another crash, another bomb. It had all happened again, we thought, trying to figure things out. New York, was it? Queens. They were canceling everything into New York City.
I was ready to bolt, but I kept thinking I had to keep going. I was scared of cabs and terrorists and bombs, but I felt that this trip meant something to me. I was taking my new business as a writer seriously, doing serious writer things. Yes, I left my family at home, but I could do this.
As I think about this now, I wonder how I could have felt so untried at such an mature age. I had traveled a great deal before, but with the support of my husband or friends. This was something new, and I felt exposed and vulnerable and kind of stupid. Giving up would be giving up on so many more things than just this flight, so I didn't step out of the line to ask any questions. I was going to make it through.
After I finally made it through the strip search roulette of security, I picked up my carry on and then I heard it, my name being called out over the terminal speaker. I was to proceed to my gate.
There I was told that a jet had crashed in Queens, killing hundreds of people, and that I was going no where but to the baggage carousel and then home. What I remember is sitting on the bench outside the terminal, feeling relieved in some ways, but empty in others. I didn't make it. I wasn't going. Thank god. Thank god?
At home later that day, my husband at work now, I thought I just should stay home. Why bother? People were falling out of the sky like rain these days. Anything could happen at any moment, and I was at least okay here at my kitchen table.
It was my mother who convinced me to reschedule my flight, to go on the new flight that would now take me through Las Vegas and then JFK. I would still have to hail a cab. I would still have to find a way to meet my friend the next day at a restaurant, somewhere in Soho or some other Manhattan place I had no idea of.
So I went on my trip, and I hailed a cab. Several. I met with all the people who would be very important to my career. I went back to New York City a few times on my own after that, doing the writer thing. And tomorrow morning, I will be flying to New York City again, going to a place that I now know, know well.
If my mother hadn't urged me forward that cold, gray, scary morning in November 2001, I might never have gone. And going to New York seemed to be going to other places, in other directions. It was a fight I truly had to catch.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org