I just returned from a trip to New York City. Monday I drove down from Syracuse to the city with my big sister. We arrived that evening and stayed with our brother and ventured into the city Tuesday morning. New York can have some pretty intense traffic so we opted to take the train from Tarry Town into Grand Central Station.
It was rather sobering for me, arriving and walking in and around Grand Central. New York City is the worst city in America in terms of sexual trafficking among children and teenagers and that Grand Central is where most pimps wait for unsuspecting and vulnerable children to abduct them and force them into slavery. Walking around the station I would people watch and wonder if there were any victims standing around, or if the man who just brushed my shoulder would be kidnapping a child later that day. I know that sounds a little crazy.
I couldn’t help but wonder, and even now as I sit in my local Cafe thinking more about the experience, how I was in the very room where thousands of children have been abducted. Where men and women have approached teen runaways and sold them on the allusion of lives filled with hope and safety, only to lead those same teenagers into nightmares, darkness, slavery, and death. To think of steps these children took from the train into slavery, and how I could have taken those same steps. My feet falling in the same places their feet fell. Incredibly humbling and sorrowful where the emotions swirling around my head as I walked through those halls trying to find the correct subway to take into Little Italy.
Human trafficking in terms of sexual slavery is something that’s hard to understand. At least, that’s what I get from most people I talk to about the issues. For someone who has never heard that such issues exist in America, the idea that American children are being abducted at such alarming rates seems inconceivable. Having never been in direct contact with a victim or an abuser myself, Grand Central Station became my direct contact with these unseen victims.
I spent a few days really thinking of all the different things I wanted to do in New York City. I had been there a few times before but my family had a tradition of simply going for dinner in Little Italy at La Mella and then going for coffee and desert at Farrah’s. We never really ventured too far outside of those lines. This time I really felt like I wanted to either go to the Statue of Liberty or to the 9/11 Memorial and spend time praying. Because of time constraints we chose the 9/11 Memorial. The tour guide (Rita) for this memorial is led by someone who was directly affected by the 9/11 attacks. She had a best friend whose husband was on the plane that crashed into tower two.
Rita walked us thorough the city streets and around the construction of the new towers into the 9/11 memorial park. She walked us through the park and explained the design and the architecture of the park and the landscaping. She left us alone for a few moments to experience the remembrance pools where the names of the fallen hero’s have been etched in memory. Then she brought our group back together and she explained to us the details of that morning. She talked about the people working in the towers, about the firefighters who rushed into the burning buildings while so many people came sprinting out for their lives.
Then Rita showed us a picture. She pulled a laminated, 3 foot long photograph from her bag showing the first tower burning and the second tower standing as the second plane approached for its collision. The photograph captures the plane just seconds before it crashes into the second tower. Rita told us that this is her best friends favorite picture. Why?
Because it shows her husbands last seconds alive on this earth.
Now I sit in my local café here in Liverpool, New York. I remember my steps from the morning before and I consider the reality. Those steps I took bring tears to my eyes. Those same steps that children have taken before me, children who have been captured and tortured. Sometimes they have been murdered, sometimes they have taken their own life in their desperate attempt to escape their version of hell on earth.
In a way I’ll cherish that memory of my first trip to Grand Central Station. Why? Because it’s the only thing I have to connect me to the thousands of innocent children who walked these steps before me.