I arrived in NYC on Friday at 12 noon by train from Washington, DC. My train was packed and we spilled out onto the platform and followed the herd up the stairs into Penn Station. Above me was the jumbo arrival billboard and it was filled with more trains arriving all day long. So many people, just like me, coming to this city. Why? Me to be a tourist on Friday, attend a conference on Saturday, and be an explorer on Sunday. So many people.
As I checked my bag across the street at the Hotel Pennsylvania, I quickly realized this city has the space to accommodate so many people. It is listed in Wikipedia as having been built by the railroad in 1919 and is still a hotel almost 100 years later with 22 floors and 1.700 rooms. If four are sharing that room, as is the case with me sharing with 3 other teachers, that is a possible 5,100 people sleeping in this same block of space. No wonder it took us almost an hour to stand in line and checkin. So many people.
We had tickets to the Tenement Museum for Friday afternoon. My colleague’s grandmother had immigrated to America from Ireland and lived in a NYC tenement so she was extra interested in learning about this moment in time in the lower Eastside of New York. As we watched the film at the museum, again I was struck by so many people coming to this island from the mid to late 1800s and early 1900s, coming from all parts of the globe to settle and make a better life, here in NYC. Our tour was called “Hard Life” and soon we learned that it really was. Crowded conditions, three room apartments (kitchen, living room, bedroom), 20 apartments per building, four outhouses outside per tenement. So many people.
On Saturday afternoon, I sat in a huge church, The Riverside Baptist church, and was surrounded by teachers. Yes teachers – not Baptist Worshipers. Instead, TCRWP Worshipers! I came from VA. Most came from nearby NYC and NJ and CT but others came by train, planes and busses to learn from the smartest literacy people in our nation. Twice a year TCRWP offer workshops to attend for free. I attended an hour talk per hour starting at 9am and now was ready to listen to the fifth and final talk, a keynote addressing all who came to learn. At one part during the talk, the speaker encouraged the crowd to “find your people”. As I looked around, I was among my people who, like me, are striving to be the best literacy teachers we can be. So many people.
I’ll return home to VA which is also a relatively populated area, to my school that is 800+ students. I’ll hold onto all I experienced in NYC…so many people…all coming to find their people and explore a part of the world that has room for them. I want those who interact with me back home to know I have room for them, I can be their people. So many people but not alone. Together we can collaborate and strive and grow.