A Love Letter to New York City | @halliekwilson

New York, I Love You

I’m pausing from posts on personal style and Fashion Week today out of respect for the events on September 11.

Instead, I thought I’d write a quick anecdote about my experience on 9/11, learn more about yours, and share with you a little love letter (or rant) of sorts that I’ve written for New York City.

hudson river

THEN: On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was a sophomore in high school. More specifically, I was in my fourth period algebra class, hastily scribbling the answers to a homework assignment I’d put off the night prior. A classmate of mine ran frantically through the door, announcing that a plane had hit the north tower.

My reactionary thought was that it was a pilot’s error, but I quickly learned that this was no accident. I spent the next week heartbroken, glued to the TV, my cell phone and the Internet.

Where were you?


NOW: My family and I visited the 9/11 Memorial last month — it was the first time in 13 years I’d been back to the World Trade Center campus. It was eerily quiet yet strangely peaceful. I stood quietly for most of our time there, thinking about how my sisters and I stood atop the Towers just a decade prior, posing with peace signs in foam Statue of Liberty hats. (Tourist central, this family.)

Thirteen years ago, I dreamt that I could someday call this place home.

new york city, streets, cabs

To date, I’ve lived in Manhattan for six months and some change.

When my one-way, non-refundable flight was landing at New York’s LaGuardia airport on Feb. 27, 2013, I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of presence and gratitude. I vowed that I’d never take a day of my life in Manhattan for granted (as I’ve done time and time again since).

nyc, manhattan, skyline, sunset, city

I love New York City. I love it because it’s loud. It’s littered with light pollution. And, well, actual pollution. You seemingly spend the majority of your time at a traffic stand-still or getting yelled at by an aggressive biker to “Get out of the f—ing bike lane, d–k!” It’s busy, expensive, inconvenient and when you hate it, it hates you back so much harder.

Here, you won’t find an island of reprieve or a moment of silence. There’s rats, there’s garbage, and there’s a suffocating mix of smell and heat in the summer. It’s a town built on hustle and everyone has an agenda — one that’s often times very individualistic. Sometimes, you feel tired, your feet hurt, and, quite frankly, you don’t get paid enough for this shit.

And yet, almost all of us wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. 

madison square park

Here, I’m claustrophobic, less organized, perpetually late and occasionally, more frantic, but I wake up consistently feeling happy, independent and grateful that I live in a country where I was able to make my dream a reality.

On the weekends, I like to wander up the street, feeling what one can only describe as something out of a movie. Cheesy, I know; but it’s true. It makes me laugh that I have no sense of direction when I emerge above ground from the subway. I like to eat like a local and shop like one too. To see the trademarks, the classics, the hidden gems. To keep myself from falling too deeply into the comfort of a routine.

New York may be the city that never sleeps, but that’s simply because there’s something in the air here that renders sleep useless.

#NeverForget: Six months (and some change) ago, I was walking across Sixth Avenue at dusk after my first day on a new job. I was lost, naturally, and aimlessly wandering in the wrong direction, but I was “too New York” to ask for directions. (I’m so my father’s daughter.)

I’d happened to look up, peer downtown and see the Freedom Tower against a cloudless, colorful backdrop — slowly climbing back into the sky in all it’s glory. It felt symbolic of the process of rebuilding and a served as a humbling reminder to always be grateful.

To my parents, sisters, family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and readers, I am truly so thankful for you.

Whether you’re a New Yorker, a Midwesterner, and regardless of which Coast you call home, I hope that you, too, will steal a quiet moment to count your blessings today — even if, among them, is that green light you caught this morning or that the you were able to steal away from your desk. There’s no shame in that — sometimes it’s the little things that make the bigger picture that much more digestible.

I love you, New York, so please don’t change. I’m just not ready to settle. 


If you’re comfortable doing so, I’d love to hear your 9/11 story in the comments (or you’re welcome to e-mail me if you’d rather keep it private). We’ll return to regularly scheduled posting tomorrow, when I’ll share with you my day 3 recap from New York Fashion Week

Join the Convo:

  • Lauren

    Thank you for posting this.

  • the more I read your blog, the more I love it. thanks for posting this. brightened my day a bit more.

    The Casual Classic

    • That’s really nice of you to say, Dana. Thanks for brightening mine. 🙂

  • This is such a beautifully written post– thanks for sharing. As someone who grew up in the South, 9/11 felt completely different to us…it was a bit harder to relate, especially at such a young age and not knowing many people in NYC. Having traveled there in following years and living up north now (I’m in D.C. & went to school in upstate NY) really makes it hit you in a different way, even all these years later.

  • Very inspirational post. This is what sets you apart from other bloggers. You’re such a pleasure to read!

  • dana

    as a native new yorker, this post made me tear up. i was in fourth grade, coming back from gym class and we looked to our right and saw the twin towers on fire – i’ll never get that image out of my head. this was a great post, dedicated to the greatest city in the world. thanks for sharing!

    • This gave me goosebumps, Dana. I can’t even imagine what it’d be like to see the Towers in-person. Lots of respect for you as a native New Yorker, girl. Smile today!

  • Great, heartfelt post, Hallie. You are so in your element right now. Keep enjoying every day!

  • Hallie, I absolutely love this post! And reading what you were doing on September 11, 2001 was almost identical to how I remember it! I was in my Freshman Geometry class when my teacher got a phone call and after a horrified “Oh my God” she turned the TV on and all day we watched. Today is such a great day to be reminded how amazing this country is and to stop, if only for a moment, to truly be thankful.

  • Megan

    Hallie, thank you for this post.

    By far, one of your best.

    12 years feels like 12 days and I don’t know when that stops.
    I do know that I’m so grateful to live in the greatest city in the world, warts and all.

    • Thanks, Megan — this was actually an easy post for me to write, which surprised me a bit. I couldn’t agree more — it’s equal parts fascinating and scary how time flies so fast. Also, laughed at your warts reference. 🙂

  • So well written Hallie.

    I will never forget that morning as long as I live.

  • Kristin

    I was a freshman in high school and when we got the news of the plan hitting the towers I didn’t really understand the brevity of the situation. As the day wore on, every teacher remained completely silent throughout the class period glued to the news; some of them were even crying. It was then that I realized this was a huge tragedy, a mark on American history that would change the course of our country. 3 years later I visited ground zero while they were still excavating and cleaning up debris and I was overwhelmed but the quiet at the site, even though NYC was bustling all around us. There were people all around crying, praying, hugging, and reflecting. It was then that I realized through this tragedy, Americans rose up from the dust to love and support people they didn’t even know; that we as a people were capable of extreme humanity towards one another, and that we could be resilient. In that moment I was proud to be an American.

    • Ah, so cool. I wish I’d had a chance to visit Ground Zero in the short-term following 9/11 — thanks for sharing your story. I love when it’s possible to find a slice of inspiration from an otherwise heartbreaking bout of nostalgia. I guess that’s what they call the silver lining, huh?

  • Thanks for writing this-I still remember my day on 9/11/01, and how I’d just learned about the 1993 attacks a few weeks ago. When I filed into gym that morning, they had TVs out showing the news and I couldn’t figure out why they were showing us footage from something older-but then it focused and we all started to figure out what was going on. I think our teachers were too horrified to even speak. The 10 year anniversary happened the same week I finalized my living situation to move to NYC, and it hit me deeply that year. I know I’ll be able to see the lights tonight, both from the city and the entire walk home to my apartment in Queens, and they’ll give me pause. The wonderful thing about New York is the perseverance and determination of everyone who lives here, though, and it’s incredible to see how strong we are united.

    • Those last two sentences are so beautiful, Rose! Well said; I couldn’t agree more. Thanks so much for sharing. : )

  • LG

    Hallie, you continue to impress me day after day… thank you for this post. So beautifully written and heartfelt. I’t’s great to be reminded why we live in such an amazing country #9.11 xo

  • Liz

    This was such an endearing and thoughtful post. Thanks for putting everything in perspective on this memorable day, and I will definitely not forget sitting in class when 9/11 happened either.

  • thank you for this post. i will always remember this morning. it breaks my heart every time i think about it. i was at the ice rink before school. i watched the first plane hit on the tv during my first break and then second hit as well. as i was getting ready to go home, i saw one hit the pentagon. i remember sitting there in fear because my friend’s dad works in the part that was hit. luckily, he was stuck in traffic and never made it in to work that day.

  • This is amazing. Can I kind of copy? On my site? I love this idea.

    • Please do, girl. Everyone has their own experience from 9/11 and their own love/hate sentiment toward New York — it’s interesting to read people’s unique perspectives and I’d love to learn more about yours! x

  • This post is so poignant and such a deep reminder to never forget. I can really feel the spirit of NYC in your photos and it makes one realize why the city is STILL a very strong emblem of freedom and the American Dream.

  • Thanks for this Hallie. Growing up 30 miles from here – it hits home every time. At the end of the day the clothes and the parties have great – but family is everything. A great reminder of how blessed we are to live in such a city of strength.

    • Well-said Lauren : ) Are you from upstate New York? I have family in Larchmont and I’ve spent a summer (interning) in Buffalo. NY is a great state in general, but there’s no place like Manhattan.

  • Milly

    Native NYer. here……though its been 12 yrs it feels like it happened yesterday…..goosebumps just remembering this day.
    Great Post…Thanks!

  • Hallie, this was freaking beautiful.

    On 9/11, I was a freshman in college in D.C.–from northern NJ, less than 30 miles from Manhattan. When the planes hit the WTC, I wanted nothing more than to go home and see the ones I loved. I wanted to make sure my cousin, who worked at South Street Seaport at the time, was okay. He walked through WTC every morning from the ferry, a walk I’d made with him just a few weeks earlier as I visited him at work before I headed off to college. Thankfully, that day, he was running late, saw it all happen from the ferry, and the ferry turned right back around and headed back to NJ.

    When the plane hit the Pentagon, just 8 miles from my dorm, I felt like there was nowhere safe. Not where I was then, not where I was from. I went home to NJ that weekend and hugged everyone I loved as close as I could. I’m so proud to live here now. I <3 NY.

  • Mary

    Beautiful and inspiring post. I was a senior in high school- all day we watched the news footage and worried. I remember my car broke down that day and I missed a dentist appointment. I remember finally crying at night as I laid in bed and the gravity of the situation hit me. I particularly remember the people holding signs w/ pictures of loved ones they were hoping to find. Your post is beautiful and from the few times I’ve visited New York I can agree w/ several of your sentiments- just walking down the street is enough entertainment for an entire weekend. Thanks for the reflective post!! Prayers to all those lost and affected by that day. XO

  • Morgann

    I’m really enjoying your blog. I just discovered it last week and have loved your NYFW coverage. This 9/11 post is quite touching and it’s so fun to see your excitement and ambition on moving to the city. Keep up the good work…from a suburban mama who never did have the courage to move to the big city by myself.

  • Such a beautiful post you put together. NY I love you, too!

  • I was in 8th grade and sitting in my Georgia History class when someone came in and told us to turn on the tv to any news channel. My teacher was perplexed but complied and the next thing we saw made our jaws drop. How could the my country be under attack? Why would anyone want to attack us? Those were two of the first questions that popped into my head.
    Next we saw bravery and love from the heroes who risked and some lost their lives in an effort to save the lives of others. It shows the love that people in NYC have for one another and the strength that is ever present there as well. The raising of the flag was a moment that took my breath away and a moment when you realized this city would rise again, that no opponent would keep it down and we would defy what those who wanted to harm us.
    New York City is a great representation for what this country stands for. It’s a city that houses people with guts, motivation, determination, love, heart and so much more. The city can get on your nerves, confuse you, it can make you wish you never left home and plenty other emotions but it can also be the city that makes you feel like you made it, that you did something with yourself and for yourself. It is a city that continues to inspire a nation and a world. It is a city I have my heart set to live in one day!

  • Jillian H.

    Thank you for such a beautiful post today. As a New Yorker, we sometimes feel that people who didn’t live here during that horrific time don’t “get it.” But you beautifully captured, I think, what most people felt that day. I remember exactly where I was. A freshman in college, only about a week in, first time away from home. I slept through my 8am class and awoke to my roommate running into our room to turn on the TV. It became real all too soon. I went to college in CT right on the Long Island Sound. Immediately campus put us on lockdown and there were police everywhere. Phones weren’t working, people could not get in touch with family or friends. It was just scary. I remember going to mass that day on campus and bonding with all these people I just met. Some have become my lifelong friends. This truly is a day we all will never forget. Thank you again for such a great post!

  • Amazing post. I remember 9/11 so well, and at that time, I never ever thought I would call this amazing, crazy city home. Since moving here, the events of that day have definitely taken on a new significance. This city is so resilient, which is part of what makes it so hard sometimes, but that toughness and never-give-up attitude is also a big part of what makes it so special.

  • What a great post, Hallie. Your words and pictures are very moving. I remember I was at home getting ready to go to school when my mom came running into my room sharing with me what happened. I didn’t personally know anyone in the towers or that lived in NY at the time but felt for all the people and the city. As an adult I’ve been able to spend time in NY more and more, what an incredible place. The energy there is truly like nothing else I’ve ever experienced in my life. Love you New York!

  • Liza

    Truly amazing to see how much you’ve done for yourself, I’m proud to call you a friend! Great post!

    And, of course, we will never forget… I was just downstairs from you in Mr. Dematte’s classroom…

    • Yeah, you Honors brat. : )

      Thanks, Lize – miss you and looking forward to catching up over the holidays!

  • I really loved this post. You are living the dream I wish I would have experienced…living in NYC. There is such a great energy about that city…it’s no like other and your post was so thoughtfully written. Keep loving every second!

  • Meredith

    This was a beautiful post! I am a senior in college and my dream has always been to live in New York City, and you make it sound so worth it!

  • Amy

    This was such a great post. So honest and sincere. I was in the fifth grade and everything just kind of stopped. All the teachers disappeared and seemed frantic and my teacher came back and turned on the TV. The first tower had been hit and we watched as the second one got hit. My grandparents lived in the city at the time and I lived close to DC and had many friends whose family members worked in the DC area. Luckily my family and friends were okay but it was such an emotional day and I think it’s amazing that we all take the time to remember it every year. New York holds very special memories for me, it’s an amazing city. I honestly have never met anyone that could say that they hated New York and you are so lucky to live there and I’m glad you share these bits and pieces of your life there so we can all live vicariously through you :). Thank you for sharing.

  • Beautiful post! It’s still incomprehensible that 9/11 hit my circle of friends as hard as it did, even though we are up in Boston. So glad you love NYC and get to live there- your feelings about NYC are similar to my feelings on America in general. Love this place something fierce! Never forget.

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  • i absolutely loved this post and it’s writing like this that makes me come back again and again. thanks so much for sharing this, it was truly lovely.

    i was a senior in high school (which makes me feel REALLY old when I read in the comments that one girl was in 4th grade) in photography lab where we had one of the only working televisions. i was packing up my stuff after staying long when i watched the immediate aftermath of the first impact on the today show. my teacher asked me to run up and tell our principal which i did quickly before realizing that my step-dad was on a flight that morning. it sent me into a panic when i realized he was on a flight headed to Washington, DC. the plane made it all the way to DC before turning back and returning to Miami. i’ll never forget every minute of that morning and every day i feel blessed to wake up in a country that gives us the freedom to follow our dreams.

  • Isa

    This post is beautiful to me – I’m originally from New York, and I have a really turbulent love-hate relationship with the city. I always thought I wanted to live there growing up too until I grew up and realized that getting an entry-level job in NYC meant I would work all the time for barely enough money to live on and wake up one day like, shit, was that just 5 years? And so I’ve been avoiding moving back there since I graduated. But I love seeing your passion for it – I used to feel that way too, and sometimes I still do. I hope it never changes for you.


  • Such a beautiful post, Hallie!

    Because I’m Obsessed

  • Ria

    This was a wonderful post.
    I was only about 8/9 when 9/11 happened so I didn’t really understand what it meant and it’s impact till I was much older.
    Having lived in the UK for my whole life, I’ve loved New York from afar and only really knew about the City through movies/TV. I’m hoping to visit next year when I graduate and one of places I’m keen to get to see if the Freedom Tower. Out of the horrendous events of 9/11 came incredible heroism, New York bounced back stronger with a sense of community that was inspiring to watch from across the Atlantic. I hope to be part of that community one day.
    Again, fab post! Found you through IFB and will be following from now on =) xoxo

  • I went to H.S. down town not too long after the first scare at the World Trade Center (garage bomb threat). I remember walking through the WTC after school or discovering the PATH to Newport and tax free NJ shopping. The WTC was definitely part of my high school experience.
    My best friend (who went to the same H.S.) called me that morning and told me the news. I turned on the TV and felt waves of horror, disbelief, and shock. I got in touch with other friends who worked in the area to make sure that they were ok. It was a surreal time. But I did learn and experience the stout spirit and resilience shared by my fellow citizens and Americans that day and up t o this moment. We shall never forget, we shall learn from ourselves and others, and we shall persevere.

  • Gemma

    I remember it. I was 8 years old English school girl who thought the worse things in life was losing your grandparent and not having your dad around and as sad as these facts are nothing could compare to the horror I learnt that day. I remember the girl whose dad worked part-time in one of the towers, I can’t even imagine how scared she was. It was the day I learnt how far someone would go to make a point and I was confused and scared. Is it even possible to hate someone that much? I questioned. I might be from England but it has effected my live from simple airport security to the war. But I like to remember the good things in life and be grateful for my time.

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  • Brie

    I was in 10th grade history class. It was picture day. I was literally smiling and getting my picture taken while planes were flying into the twin towers. When I returned back to class the news was on TV and the images of the planes were blasting the screen. This was history class, remember… so I assumed we were watching a movie when we got back. The heartbreaking moment you realize it’s live TV was awful. It was confusing, scary and hard to imagine you were just smiling in front of a camera minutes ago while this was happening just one state over. #neverforget

  • Beautifully written, Hallie. I was in the 6th grade – homeroom specifically – when the teacher from next door ran into the room yelling that a plane had flown into the WTC and we’d better turn the TV on. As the daughter of a pilot whose dad was flying that day, I was instantly gripped with fear. Fortunately, he was not on one of those airplanes. Our teacher let us watch the coverage, and I distinctly remember watching the second plane fly into the tower. Even to an 11-year-old who didn’t have a full grasp on what was happening, it was heartbreaking.

    I know none of us will ever forget what we were doing that day. #neverforget

  • Such a great post, and so touching to read through everyone’s 9/11 stories. I was a freshman at Purdue and in my English class when the first plane hit. I went back to my dorm room and was watching coverage on TV when the second plane hit live, so surreal. At the time nobody knew exactly what was going on, just lots of speculation, which made it that much scarier. I can’t imagine what those living in New York and DC were going through at the time, if I was scared from my dorm room in Indiana. I love the beauty of the city and the electricity I feel running through me when I’m in New York, and I think you captured a lot of that special energy in this post. I think taking the time to reflect on those that have lost and feel thanks for all the things we still have is something we should all do more often. xx

  • Such a great post! I was also in school, 8th grade, and we were first told there was a bomb but an hour later, we were all sent home when they realized what had happened. I live in Brooklyn (my whole life) and there were burned pieces of paper and smoke all the way here. It’s crazy how long it’s been….

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