American's New York State of Mind
        by Lori Rehfeldt
        September 27, 2001

I joined the Air Force; I was a brand new 18-year-old.  I was supposed to be attending the School of Visual Arts in NYC.  I was going to major in film.  The process to get into that school was interesting because I had to write a scene for a movie.   That scene was my 'portfolio'.  I was so excited that I was going there and then Mom drove me to NYC to register for class.

Now, I know most of those who know me, know I'm the kid from New York.  Most think I was raised in the city.  Many would be surprised to know that I grew up on 3 acres.  We lived near farm fields and they were just starting to build around me, but not much.  Going to the beach every summer was always driving deeper and deeper into lush greenery until we came up to the Long Island Sound.

So there I was registering for classes at the School of Visual Arts and the building was in disarray with clutter all around.  There were kids hanging out in the hall looking stoned and the cost to attend this school wasn't cheap.  The other negative was that they didn't have dormitories so, I'd have a long commute home every day.  I left their thinking I can't do this.  I was feeling so depressed.  At that point, I didn't know what I was going to do with my life.  My face was pale, and Mom could see that I was upset.  NYC at that moment in 1977 was too fast paced for me.

Mom was relieved to hear my news, and decided to make a day of it.  We went and visited the World Trade Center Towers and then we went on a ferry to the Statue of Liberty.

For those of you who've never been inside the World Trade Center Towers, it was a building built on pride, even the elevator operator was proud.  He said, "Within the next 20 seconds we will be a quarter of a mile into the sky." 

The thought of being a quarter of a mile into the sky made me feel some trepidation.  I didn't know if I was afraid of heights or not.  Then at the top we walked around and even went outside!  I remember looking down at the street below.  I could see tiny toy cars and trucks going about their business.  I also thought about what would happen if I accidentally dropped a penny from that height.  Of course I didn't.  It turned out that was my last visit to the World Trade Center Towers.
New York City is a fast paced environment.  People are all different yet we are so much the same.  We had our accents but none of us heard our accents until we left New York.  We were Mets fans and we always rooted for the underdog.  We stood behind Mayor Lindsey because he was the peoples Mayor even to those who didn't live in NYC.  We loved Mayor Koch because he was so funny and he was all heart.  We loved our hot pretzels and chestnuts that you'd buy around Christmas, meatball hero's, and pizza that you could get anywhere. 

I recently saw a picture of NYC building five buildings in the shape of the bird, you know, the finger and I laughed because no one can ever stop the heart and soul of New Yorkers.  I think we all have a piece of New York in all of us.  It might be gritty, might be rough around the edges but its soul doesn't give up.  Its soul reaches out with a plate full of pasta or the bag pipes of the NY police department. 

I haven't lived in New York for a very long time, but I love New York and I grieved when the towers went down, but I knew that we'd show the world what we are made of.  I saw the same heart, the same spirit with the guys at Bentwaters who stood their post without complaint.  They might have thought that standing out in the cold staring at an airplane wasn't why they joined the Air Force, but they did their job anyway, because it was their responsibility and they didn't want to let their fellow airmen down.  Many of the young guys (men and women) of the 81st Security Police had the same spirit of those who recently went to "Ground Zero" to help those they didn't know.  They did it because it was the right thing to do. 

God Bless America!