I grew up in New York City, close enough to Manhattan that I consider New York to be ‘my’ city, even though I have not been a resident for nearly 20 years. I root for New York teams. I drive like a New Yorker. I identify with New York City. The suburbs have not changed me enough to take the NYC out of me … and they never will.
New York City runs in my blood enough that when the City hurts, I feel the pain like any other New Yorker. And when I have a chance to take a trip to the City, I feel the same pride as other New Yorkers when I walk around and look at the magnificence that only the 212 provides. I recently took my five year-old to Times Square and Madison Square Garden for the first time. It was not a Rangers game, he is not quite ready yet. It was a right of passage. He saw New York City in all of its glory. He ate New York City pizza. He learned about walking faster than usual, and to not be offended if he gets bumped. He may not be a “New Yorker,” but he’ll have enough New York in him to get by just fine.
After all, New York is my city. Only true New Yorkers can understand.
On Tuesday, New York City wept again. Anybody who has ever been to Manhattan can certainly visualize a beautiful fall day in the city, and the hustle and bustle that only New York City can provide. If you have ever been to the City, you most certainly have seen tourists everywhere … in cabs, on buses, buggies, and even bicycles. It’s just such a New York City thing to do. We’ve all seen the cabs and the bikes, and the cars, and the trucks, and it is busy and crazy, but somehow everybody keeps moving in perfect harmony, whether fast or slow.
But Tuesday was different. On Tuesday, our way of life was threatened yet again as the scourge of evil found its way to our city. A man with a truck and a mission plowed through the masses and became a terrorist. He ended eight lives, changed countless others, and proved once again that the happiness and comfort I enjoyed with my child when we visited New York not long ago is so incredibly fragile these days.
But as Sayfullo Saipov lays in a hospital bed, celebrating his success as a beacon of terror, he has not yet realized that he failed. Yes, he killed innocent victims. Sure, he put yet another scare into us all. But, he is a terrorist that failed to generate terror. He did not attack innocent bikers, tourists, and student, he went after our American way. And he changed nothing. We gasped in horror. We hugged our loved ones tighter. We threw our hands up and begged to understand why this keeps happening. Many young parents like me took at least a moment to wonder if taking our children out for Halloween was the best idea. We all prayed it will never happen again.
But, we were all once again resilient. We moved on, quickly. We continued with our lives. New York did not skip a beat.
The band played on.
Not far from where Mr. Saipov went on his evil rampage, we proved to him and those who convinced him that driving a truck into a pack of innocent civilians would ruin an entire city or nation that America continues. The New York Rangers met the Las Vegas Golden Knights in what was merely a hockey game between two teams. That’s all. 60 minutes of ice hockey. But it was 60 minutes of New York City being New York City. Enhanced security made sure that spectators and players were safe. A moment of silence allowed everybody to digest what had happened. And for 60 minutes, two teams sent a message that no act of terror can stop the American way, and no attack can bring New York City to its knees. The band did play on, and for yet another night we proved that we are bigger and better than a madman with a truck and a mission.
And for the New York Rangers, boy did they do their part. During a season that was lost before it really began, the Rangers heard the bell and answered it. New Yorkers needed a reason to cheer, and the Rangers happily obliged. They were down and out – as many in the City probably felt after the events of the day – but found a way to triumph, as an entire City will do after yet another horrible attack. Down by two, they scored four goals in the third period to earn an emotional win. During one of the most awful days in the history of New York City, the Rangers sent thousands of people back into that very city feeling like the world is doing just fine. While it was only a hockey game, it was also a statement. In the same city where a man tried to attack our way of life, a sports team proved that Mr. Saipov and his minions will never succeed. The will not stop our way of life. New York is bigger and better than that. It is resilient. It is a city that bounces back in a nation that cannot be overcome.
This is our city. The band will always play on.
20 years ago, a madman with a truck and a mission would probably have caused the game to be postponed. Had the game been played, Madison Square Garden probably would have been half empty as the City would have ground to a halt in order to process the events of the day. Had the game been played, it probably would have been more of a scrimmage between two teams overcome by the moment, and unsure of the world around them. But not anymore. We have become a City and a nation that does not bend to terror. We wept, but then moved forward with our way of life.
And the New York Rangers did what New Yorkers do, even though none of them are really New Yorkers. When their city needed something to help it recover, they did just that. It was not just the win for the Rangers, it was the way they won the game. As usual, they did not play well. As par for the course, their defense decided to take the night off. Like old hat, they sleep-walked through the start. But, last night ended oh so differently. Sensing the moment, they willed their way to a win. It was incredible.
Did they galvanize an entire city? Probably not. Between Halloween, the World Series, the place hockey holds within our society, and just the fact that it is a busy time of year, there were probably a lot of New Yorkers completely unaware that a hockey game was taking place just a short walk where a horrific act of terror took place. But for those who are truly New Yorkers, those who really understand our city, what the New York Rangers did last night was pretty darn special. And listening to the post-game reaction of the players, they knew it too.
Let’s face facts … this team stinks. Will their fire their coach? Will they decimate the roster and build for next year? Is a long, painful rebuild upon us? The truth is that we do not know. On Tuesday, shortly before the game began, a madman with a truck and a mission proved that the plight of the New York Rangers pales in comparison to the real issues that we face these days.
But, no matter what happens this season or next season, or for many seasons to come, what we do know for sure is that last night was a night when New York City needed a reason to be New York City. It needed something uniquely New York to pick up the way of life that only New Yorkers understand. Faced with an uppercut of adversity that only the horrors of terror can provide, our city needed to be picked up and reminded that the band does in fact play on.
And the New York Rangers did just that. It was painful and ugly, and tough to watch at times. But, when it ended, we felt like New Yorkers again.
No matter what happens the rest of the way this season, the New York Rangers gave its city exactly what it needed on a night when it needed something special the most. No matter what happens the rest of the way, what the Rangers did on Tuesday night was bigger and better than anything else this team can do the rest of the way. And an entire city thanks them for it.