Big Apple, Big Values, Big Hero
There was a time when I was afraid to go into New York City, let alone bring my children along. But after bottoming out during the 80s, an era characterized by rampant crime, filth and graffiti, The Big Apple is back and better than ever.
My first forays back to New York City were in the late 90s when I was a road manager for a rock band. In stops from the Bronx to Greenwich Village, it was obvious that the city was cleaner and safer. A train trip to Pennsylvania Station, subway ride to Rockefeller Center and walkabout before and after the famous Radio City Music Hall Christmas show a couple of years later with my son and daughter confirmed the metamorphosis.
The kids are older and have moved away, but the DF&C and I journey into the city fairly often for concerts, opera and ballet. We did so again this past holiday season and took in a terrific Broadway show, flowed up and down packed Midtown sidewalks with the multitudes, rubbernecked the Empire State Building like tourists from Iowa, had a delicious and reasonably priced meal, and marvelled at how polite everyone was.
We got turned around on our way back to the Lincoln Tunnel, so I inquired of a UPS driver as to what the best route was for our escape to New Jersey.
“You’re welcome to follow me, mahn,” he replied in a thick Jamaican accent, and off we went in pursuit of his delivery van.
So it came as no surprise when I read of the heroics this week of Wesley Autrey, a construction worker who lives near the 137th Street and Broadway subway station.
I’ll let the New York Times take over from here:
“Mr. Autrey was riding the subway with his 6- and 4-year-old daughters when a young film student had a seizure on the platform. He and two women went to help the young man, 20-year-old Cameron Hollopeter, but Mr. Hollopeter stumbled while he was getting up and fell onto the tracks.
“As a No. 1 train approached, Mr. Autrey jumped down onto the tracks and lay on top of Mr. Hollopeter, pushing into a space that was about a foot deep. Five cars traveled over the two men before the train screeched to a halt. It passed just inches above Mr. Autreyâ€™s head, leaving grease on his knit cap.
“Mr. Autreyâ€™s instinctive willingness to put his life on the line is not something most people would expect to encounter in New York City. But then, the negative stereotypes about New York have never stood up to the facts. Uncharitable? New York ranks first in a newly released state-by-state study of giving by the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy. Less committed than the rest of the country to the nationâ€™s defense? New York City has lost more of its residents in battle in Iraq than the average state.
“Not willing to come to the aid of strangers? Mr. Autrey put that one to rest in dramatic fashion. Small-town values are certainly an important part of what makes America great, but so are big-city values, which in many cases are exactly the same.”