“Anybody can tell you how to do it / but they never did it….” — “Already Home,” The Blueprint 3
New York City is the best city in the world. I say this with the unabashed pride of a native New Yorker, as I’ve called this place home my entire life. Those who visit for the holidays or pursue Sex and the City-style career dreams get to experience the hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps for a short time. But for those of us who are from New York, the pride is in our accents, our attitudes, and even our DNA.
His Yankee fitted, his never-ending love for the King of N.Y (The Notorious B.I.G.), and the ease with which he inspires a sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium to throw up a sea of ROC signs, all make Jay-Z a larger than life NYC staple of his own—but he’s still just as much a child of this city as any one of us. And that’s why he was able to take one of the darkest days on the calendar and flip it into a celebration at Madison Square Garden on September 11, 2009. With that move, he gained a fan for life.
…he’s still just as much a child of this city as any one of us.
My life changed on September 11, 2001. My city was attacked and my father was almost lost. I gained the greatest gift when he finally made it home, but with that relief is the sobering realizing that thousands didn’t. I was reminded of that every day for months, as I walked by the missing person signs that covered the subway stations at West 4th Street on my way to class at NYU. I felt it every time I had to be in large crowds, as panic crept in and sometimes left me paralyzed. I’d freak out whenever a subway car stopped for too long, and skip rush hour whenever possible. It was the first time I felt my safety—and that of my loved ones—was not in my hands. But even with that anxiety, which I still struggle with, I could never imagine leaving. I endure it, because that’s what New Yorkers are taught to do at a very early age.
I’m still reminded when my dad compares fearful moments to the way he “felt on 9/11,” although he very rarely talks about what he saw at the World Trade Center on that cloudless morning. Here’s what I do know: While I watched the towers disappear from my view at Washington Square Park, my dad saw bodies falling from the sky like office supplies. We visited the site a month later, when I was finally allowed to enter my dorm at South Street Seaport, and we were both struck silent by the stench, the smoke, and the skeleton of a landmark that was taken from us.
Every year, we listen to the names of the 2,977 lives lost on September 11, and my heart goes numb when I hear the victims with my last name. They could have so easily been Dad. In 2009, the feelings were the same, but that year, Jay-Z used hip-hop to bring hope back to the city. On September 8, 2009, Jay announced that he would hold an “Answer The Call” charity concert at MSG on the anniversary of the attack, and he would donate proceeds to the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund.Here’s what I do know: While I watched the towers disappear from my view at Washington Square Park, my dad saw bodies falling from the sky like office supplies. /pullquote]
At a press conference alongside then New York Gov. David Paterson and New York City Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, million dollar man Jay-Z said what we were all thinking in the city at that time, even if we only had a couple of dollars in our pockets: “This is my chance to help out and do something.” And tickets were only $50, so anyone with quick Ticketmaster fingers had a chance to attend and contribute.
That night, Jay-Z brought back a heartbeat for those in attendance. He performed music from the then-newly released The Blueprint 3. To this day, it’s one of my favorite projects in his collection because it’s laced with “I’m still standing” hustle, and “You haven’t seen what I’m capable of next” ambition. Resilience was apparent with the first responders honored on the stage, and the energy was thick. And as New York natives Mary J. Blige, Puff Daddy, Alicia Keys, and a slew of others hit the MSG stage, the pride swelled even more. It was a huge symbol to those who tried to kill the spirit of the city, that we aren’t going anywhere.
Even though the pain of 9/11 will never go away, starting in 2009, it was newly coupled with pride in my heart. Now, each year, after the reading of the names of the people who were lost on that day 16 years ago, I turn on TIDAL and remember that NYC’s spirit isn’t going any damn where.