The tourists are gone from the Brooklyn Bridge. I miss them.
Each and every day, I escape the confines of my writing space to run. It feels slightly taboo, self-indulgent perhaps, but necessary. The fresh air, exercise and endorphins are the only things keeping me sane at this point.
I pass my cat snuggled in the corner, the unwashed coffee mugs accumulated by the sink, the pens and paper scattered about the room.
I make my way to the Brooklyn Bridge, which I have always loved running across — perhaps because it’s New York’s most famous landmark; perhaps because of its historical significance to the borough where I was born; perhaps because of the sweeping views it offers of the sprawling metropolis around it.
I have not, however, always loved dodging visitors and vacationers as I try to get in my daily workout.
That was not the case this week. Crossing the empty overpass truly opened my eyes to the severity of the situation at hand. It was eerily empty, no longer teeming with selfie-taking tourists.
Is it strange to say I miss them?
I never thought I would write those words, but I do miss the tourists. I miss the way they so absentmindedly spread their entire bodies out on the bicycle path, posing for the perfect photo.
I miss them crowding along the very narrow walkway.
I miss the cacophony of foreign accents and camera clicks filling the air.
I miss looking down into Brooklyn Bridge Park to see wedding portraits being taken against the backdrop of Jane’s Carousel, kids venturing onto the rocks beneath the Manhattan Bridge despite signs very clearly telling them not to. (I was never one to follow the rules either.)
I miss seeing Fulton Ferry swarming with even more selfie takers and ice cream lickers.
I miss knowing that those very tourists, as infuriating as they can be, were a source of business for the many mom-and-pop shops that dot DUMBO and beyond.
I miss hearing the honking of traffic to my left and right; what once felt annoying now feels amiss.
On Wednesday, only the howling wind and the occasional car accompanied me. It was only me, two police officers and a few other runners. We solemnly nodded to each other as we passed.
It’s in these moments, as I escaped my house arrest, my quarantine, my shelter-in-place, call it what you will, that the vacancy of the city really started to affect me.
Where were my 8.6 million neighbors? Trapped in their homes I suppose.
At a press conference this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio tried his best to humanize this crisis.
“The painful obligation I have every time I join with you is to tell you the overall numbers,” he said. “And I will say every single time, these are human beings, these are families represented in these numbers. These are our neighbors.”
He’s right. These are human beings. And it’s perhaps the very lack of human beings on the streets, in the parks and, yes, on Brooklyn’s famous bridge, that brings this pandemic to life.
There’s no telling how long this will last or what the final outcome will be, but New Yorkers are strong. We’ve been through 9/11, we’ve been through Sandy and we’re going to get through COVID-19.
The tourists will return.
Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.
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