I’m in New York City this week executing one of the busiest schedules I’ve experienced in quite some time. On top of that schedule, just being in the Big Apple is always an enormous challenge. It’s a different world altogether … much like visiting 15 different cities all wrapped up in one. Every visit is an educational experience in so many ways if you simply open your mind to it.
I had an experience tonight that would certainly fit into that unique category of “events that lead to deep thought.” I completed my last training session of the day at 9 p.m., closed the facility and took the elevator down to the street level to hail a cab back to my hotel. Hitting the street, I discovered a beautiful full moon reflecting across the Hudson River and a brisk autumn air to put the finishing touches on a gorgeous night! I decided against the usual cab ride and chose, instead, a nice leisurely stroll through the financial district and on to the historic seaport district where my hotel is situated.
As I casually strolled down Wall Street passing in front of the New York Stock Exchange, I was suddenly confronted with a shocking scene which actually stopped me in my tracks! Directly in my path was a police officer decked out in full swat team regalia including a helmet with plastic visor and a very threatening fully automatic firearm (machine gun to many people) complete with a large capacity magazine. To complete this military image, I couldn’t help but notice the bulky bulletproof vest, and camouflage attire including combat boots.
I couldn’t help but notice that the officer was holding the weapon in such a manner that it was obvious he could fire it in seconds. Suddenly I saw two more officers, similarly dressed and armed to my left, then a few more off to my right and within seconds identified a total of 12 which suddenly appeared as a small army. It seemed immediately obvious to me that there must have been an incident in the area which summoned this intimidating group of militia.
To add to this very unusual scenario was a small group of city service workers resurfacing a sidewalk under the brilliant glare of very bright overhead lights. I couldn’t help but pause and question one of the workers as to why so many heavily armed military personnel were in the area.
He quickly explained that nothing had happened. He said, “These guys are here every day and every night and have been since 9-11 to protect the Stock Exchange from a terrorist attack.” He said locals were used to this scene, and I was only seeing those out in the open. He said there were many, many more in the alleys and on top of the surrounding buildings.
I thanked him and started walking again when it suddenly dawned on me that I was pulling a small roller suitcase filled with the props I used in my training. It was now nearing 10 p.m., and I’m strolling through a heavily armed security area pulling what might very well appear to be a suitcase filled with explosives. I immediately felt the cold, hard stare of dozens of well-trained eyes analyzing my every step.
However, no one questioned me or made any move to approach me. I cautiously picked up my pace and quickly made my way toward my hotel in somewhat of a quick step. Ten minutes later, I could see the friendly twinkling lights of the Brooklyn Bridge reflecting off the water resembling a post card …. and I knew I was just a block from the safe haven of my hotel.
It was an amazing realization that I just moved from the beauty of one river area near the scene of the Twin Towers tragedy to that of an equally beautiful river area complete with the world renowned Brooklyn Bridge while passing through what appeared to be a modern day combat zone in the heart of one of the largest cities on the planet. Whew! Nuff said! Welcome to New York City!