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In my spectacular visit to the Big Apple, glimpses and memories of Kansas

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Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Ashley Motley currently works as an emergency substitute teacher in Manhattan.

Just before the election, I took a trip to New York. Since then, especially as we all go into vacation mode, I can’t get rid of the feeling of missing the city. It’s like she’s a new friend, with whom I had a three-hour conversation over pizza and wine late at night. I miss her and am grateful for the time we spent together.

I went there in a supporting role for one of my closest friends – a talented photographer based in Overland Park who travels for work.

In September, we all went on the defensive when New York City Mayor Eric Adams pissed off Kansans by saying we didn’t have a brand — it even inspired one of my favorites. Columns from my editor. Then, in the last and ugliest month of the election cycle, I watched attack ads linking a candidate to her New York roots.

Having never been to the city, I wanted to travel there with an open mind and understand exactly what inspires such a strong response from people. People seem to love him or hate him.

The wedding reception was held at the New York Historical Society. For this reason, we visited the building a day before so that we could see the light and the space. I learned that it served as a museum and was founded in 1804, making it both the oldest museum in town and a keeper of ancient American history. The purpose of the society is to catalog the city’s history for New Yorkers and visitors.

While we were there, we watched a short film about the city’s beginnings and how it fostered change throughout our country’s history. As we entered the small theater, a group of students led by two professors filled the back rows.

I whispered to the homeroom teacher, “Middle school or high school? »

He whispered back, “Middle.”

I replied, “Ah, I teach middle school too.”

He laughed and said, “So you understand what I’m going through then.”

The truth is, yes and no. I know what it’s like to show up every day for college kids now. But I can’t imagine riding them across the Upper West Side in one of the greatest cities in the world. It was then that my appreciation for New Yorkers began to grow.

There were many pieces in the historical society building that dangled in my memory. Among them is an exhibit with a photo of Sandra Lindsay, director of nursing for critical care at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center. She volunteered to receive the first COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. His vaccination card and the tiny used vials in the case will remind visitors of when the city foreshadowed what was to come for the rest of the country.

I know what it’s like to show up every day for college kids now. But I can’t imagine riding them across the Upper West Side in one of the greatest cities in the world. It was then that my appreciation for New Yorkers began to grow.

Another exhibit featured civil rights comics designed to teach children and adults about black history, nonviolent protest, and electoral power. A book, titled “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story,” from 1957, caught my students’ attention the most when I showed them pictures of my trip after I returned.

These pieces were part of The Gilder Lehrman Collection, which contains more than 60,000 rare records from leaders such as George Washington and Frederick Douglass to “ordinary” Americans, including slaves, soldiers and immigrants. It is intended to promote the study and love of American history by presenting original documents that teach us to value our past and our future.

Later in the afternoon, I walked a block to the American Museum of Natural History. There, nestled in a museum in the heart of New York, was a display about meteorites discovered in farmland near Brenham, Kansas.

Fragments of these meteorites were part of the show, along with a lesson on how farmer Eliza Kimberly collected a large pile of them while she worked to persuade a scientist to come look at them with an editorial campaign of letters. This work of a true and enduring Kansan was on display for the city and all its visitors.

Later that day, as my friend was packing her gear and communicating with the mothers of the bride and groom, she told them that we had discovered a delicious French bakery in Midtown. She brought them each pain or chocolate as they prepared.

“We can say that you are an inhabitant of the heart,” they told her.

Later, they were impressed by the fact that two women visiting the city for work were carrying photographic equipment on the subway – not a task for the faint-hearted. This reinforced their view of Plains women.

On the last day of our trip, we visited the 9/11 Memorial.

It felt important, to pay homage to the city and to remember all that we lost as a country that day and in the war that followed. The water falls into two separate cavernous square holes amidst a crush of silence. The sadness in the air here is heavy – so tangible I could feel it draped over my shoulders.

Visitors stand silently reading names, tracing the letters with their fingertips. The Kansans lost friends and family in these buildings and nearby buildings collapsed. My friend quietly recounted her own father’s experience of visiting the site where he lost his friends. His visit took place at the time when street vendors were bottling the ashes.

You can experience all the tension of beauty and pain intertwined in New York. Central Park’s dappled sunlight mixed with learning about how the park moved people from Village of Seneca. Opera music coming out of a 7-Eleven amid men standing with paper bags full of booze. A nice stroll down Fifth Avenue on the way to the Met while walking next to a burnt out homeless man. Fashion and individual expression in a metro train juxtaposed with the man on the platform as he sets off in the middle of the day.

Every moment of human existence is somehow amplified in New York. And while great pain is exposed, the courage of our country is tied to the daily comings and goings there. The reflection of the experiences of Americans in all states, including the Kansans, is present.

If you ask me, I love New York. And I love seeing the effect Kansans can have when they take their place in this global city – in the presence of history on display in a museum, in the work ethic and empathy shown to others that reflect our values, in our ability to mourn an attack that has spread out of town and across our country.

Even though I loved the city, I smiled when I got a text from my husband before my flight telling me to “Go home to God’s country”.

Because yes, I had missed seeing the stars and breathing our fresh air. Kansas will always be my home, and yet I will always feel the need to travel to understand and appreciate our place in the world.

Reader, as you recover from the partisanship and conflict experienced during the election, consider traveling. Choose a place that gives you the thrill of being nervous and excited at the same time. Step out of your world and into another. Find joy this season in the wonder of discovery – and the thrill of coming home.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information including how to submit your own review, here.

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