So, how was your trip to New York?
And I say, “It was gr….uh, it was….”
And then I don’t know what to say. So here is how it was, omitting, as much as possible, the “usual” terrible airport stories. That is to say, limiting some but not all of the sordid details, or at least being as succinct as possible in the telling, and trying to put them in perspective….
George and I flew to New York on Air Canada, stayed with some dear and wonderful and generous friends on 12th Street, just a couple of blocks from the Strand Book Store (my first stop after I park my suitcase…suitcase, more about that later.) The occasion was the annual AIPAD meeting (the Association of International Photography Art Dealers) which George loves to attend because he can see a lot of people who represent him world wide and old friends and colleagues he doesn’t run into in Montreal, and he likes to be seen as well because some people who have heard of him but don’t know him wonder if he is still alive. Those people ask when they meet him, in some surprise, “Are you still photographing?” which really means, “Are you still breathing!”
We know New York because we used to live there. Even after we moved to the ex-urbs we were in and out of that town, even to take the kids to the dentist. (They never complained about that trip.) But once we moved to Canada our visits were less frequent. So we were pretty excited.
I booked the tickets online well in advance, had all boarding passes, read the fine print about what you could take on board and what not, spent the day before D Day hunting (really hunting – didn’t those people ever hear of flying restrictions post 9/11?) – for a small tube of shaving cream, found one eventually and paid $10 for it. So we got to the airport bright and early and whoops, the hermetically sealed can of Quebec maple syrup George had romantically purchased for our friends was deleted from his small carry-on bag along with his unopened tube of shaving cream which, it turns out, was not quite small enough.
We are supposed to smile and be thankful for such restrictive measures designed solely for our safe passage. However, being the sort of person who thinks she thought of everything, I was not amused.
But never mind. We arrived safely and proceeded to “have a good time”. The Strand, the opening night event at AIPAD, the warm friendship of our old friends. The next days were full of independent and together wonderful events. On the third day George had a three o’clock appointment at MOMA, so we went there for lunch (wonderful – treated like royalty at the bar), saw an exhibit (not so wonderful), I visited the gift shop while he visited upstairs, and then we walked over to Fifth Avenue and took the M4 bus back to the apartment which was now in our sole care since our friends had gone off for the weekend.
While on the bus shortly after five o’clock we heard sirens very close to us and wondered how on earth the vehicles, whatever they were, would get through the full lanes of traffic on this one-way street. But they did get by and as we crossed 37th Street we could see that a white van had jumped the curb and was stopped diagonally across the sidewalk nosing up against a building. Lights were flashing on the blocked street, and we both said we hoped that no one had got hurt.
Later that night we went to a very good Czech movie right in the neighborhood and afterwards went for a light supper at a good restaurant nearby where there were just a few after dinner lingerers. We had eaten there the night before with our friends who were well known by the owner, and he greeted us warmly. A waitress showed us to a table where I was about to be seated when I was witness to what appeared to be a silent movie: at the table directly in front of ours a man had stood up and was holding a woman who was slouched over in front of him. He was obviously trying to administer the Heimlich manoeuvre. George’s back was to them but when he saw my face he turned. The owner of the restaurant ran over to the couple, took the man’s place and successfully completed the manoeuvre.
It was scary. Really scary. The couple sat there for a while, the woman, facing me, trying to compose herself, and after a little while they left. The owner later told us that he always steps in at moments like that because people who are known to each other rarely manage to squeeze hard enough.
So when people ask….how was your trip to New York?…I say it was gr….and I don’t know where to go from there. And only today, six weeks exactly from that day on the Fifth Avenue bus, through writing this, have I understood just why.
All my life I have had the tendency to let bad things overrule the good, seeming ungrateful, seeming to need a black cloud over my head, seeming stupid. And I have been embarrassed and ashamed. Modern brain research notwithstanding (ah, there is a reason for this! It is normal!), I still feel guilty that I cannot enthusiastically without equivocation state, “Our trip to New York was GREAT!”
Still, I will tell you this: our trip home was a traumatic nightmare (you can read about it later if you scroll down) but even more disturbing than that was what we read in the New York Times as we breakfasted at the beautiful marble table in our friends’ dining room the morning after our ride on the Fifth Avenue bus:
Pregnant Woman Killed When Van Jumps Curb
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR and COLIN MOYNIHAN
Published: March 28, 2009
©2009 THE NEW YORK TIMES COMPANY
A 28-year-old pregnant woman was killed and a second woman was seriously injured on Friday afternoon when a driver, apparently intoxicated and following the women as they walked down a Midtown Manhattan street, lost control of a supermarket maintenance van, which jumped onto the sidewalk and slammed into them, the police and witnesses said.
The accident occurred about 5 p.m. after the two women, co-workers at an architecture firm, left work for the day and walked west along East 37th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues. According to witnesses, the driver of the van pulled alongside the women and began slowly following them. A man in the passenger seat hung out the car window, as if looking for something or someone, one witness said.
Moments later, the van jumped the curb and crashed into the women, pinning them to the ground. The van moved with such force that it toppled a parking meter, a signpost and a bollard meant to protect the parking meter.
The pregnant woman was identified by relatives as Ysemny Ramos, a graphic designer who lived with her husband and three children — ages 3, 5, and 7 — in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
Ms. Ramos’s co-worker, identified by colleagues as Tassia Katsiambanis, 37, of Queens, was listed in stable condition at Bellevue. The women worked at Israel Berger & Associates, an architectural consulting and inspection firm at 232 Madison Avenue.
The accident scene on Friday was one of devastation. Marlon Contreras, 44, the superintendent at 232 Madison, said Ms. Ramos and Ms. Katsiambanis had walked through the lobby of the building and exchanged goodbyes with him as they stepped outside. Moments later, he said, he heard a loud crash.
Running outside, Mr. Contreras saw the van on the sidewalk 100 yards away and the women on the ground. Mr. Contreras said he wanted to help Ms. Ramos, but it was too late. “I feel sick,” he said.
At Bellevue, friends and relatives of Ms. Ramos’ said she was a devoted mother who loved art and had studied graphic design at the State University College at New Paltz.
“She was a family person — all about her family,” said Nicole Ogelbie, a longtime friend. “She was always there for me for everything. She was my support.”
Mathew R. Warren contributed reporting.
A version of this article appeared in print on March 28, 2009, on page A17 of the New York edition.
A few days later The Times interviewed Ms. Ramos’ husband, Raynaldo:
At the family’s house on Saturday, Mr. Ramos, 27, said he reflected on the last moments he spent with his wife.
“I remember yesterday morning waking up and looking over and saying, ‘Thank you for being with me,’ ” he told reporters. They had been together seven years and recently found out that they were expecting a girl, he said.
Mr. Ramos said he had spoken to his wife just before she left the office on Friday, and she told him she was on her way home. They agreed to celebrate their anniversary at a Mexican restaurant.
Now he was faced with arranging for her funeral. “I am just taking it one step at a time,” he said. “I know I’ve got to buy a suit.”
When people ask how was our trip to New York, whatever I say, I cannot say how sad I am that Ysemmy Ramos and her fetus are dead, her three children are motherless, and her husband is undoubtedly devastated in his new suit.
©2009 Elaine A. Zimbel
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