Remembering the Final Approach to New York City
    Andrew Wilson
It's always been a glorious thing to fly over New York City on a clear morning. During the final decisive, swooping approach to Kennedy Airport, all the passengers, having fastened themselves into their seats at the Captain's instructions, duck their heads slightly, shading their eyes with their hands, to peer out through the palm-smudged plexiglass windows at Manhattan's towers thrusting up into the atmosphere -- sparkling steel and glass, aged and soot-stained granite, all with those mysterious deep-shadowed canyons of streets cutting cleanly between them. It is a Cubist painting, a Futuristic fantasy, a grandiose wedge of Modernism -- one thinks with amazement of the invisible people toiling away in that vast hive. The twin cubed towers of the World Trade Center especially seem, like the upraised tines of some immense tuning fork, to vibrate with their energy. New York harbor is deep blue-black, pristine from this height, and toy-sized tankers and barges are gliding at the marble-white feet of the Statue of Liberty. But most amazing thing is how, as the commercial jet banks, dipping one wing exactly like a seagull turning to loop back toward the shoreline, Manhattan rushes into the eye breathtakingly whole, compact and yet scintillatingly chaotic, as in one's first glimpse of a beautiful, agile young girl. I've never failed, at this moment, to experience a surge of mingled exhilaration and nervousness and wonder -- and tenderness. Yes, tenderness. In barely an hour, I'll be one of those idling or rushing millions of human beings on Manhattan island, riding in a steamy cab through the hooting, teeming streets, or walking in the shadow of a great building past the street vendors and fruit stands, delighted by the woosh of a hurtling subway blowing up hot air through a sidewalk grating. But, for now, the clamoring and sometimes murderous city offers itself up like the most comfortable of embraces. Then the fusilage shudders, the engines give out a thin whine, and one feels more than hears the caressing, subtly reverberant clunk of the landing gear coming down.


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