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Why Vancouver? Why You?

Thank you to all entrants. Please visit the semifinalist page to view the top ten essays as determined by our panel and the public voting. Click here to view the top ten

My Journey From NYC To Vancouver

By Lisa Wartur

My very first flight ever from New York City to Vancouver was scheduled for September 14, 2001….

As a native New Yorker growing up in Queens, the city of Vancouver, British Columbia had never been on my radar. In fact, I’d never spent much time in Canada at all, with the exception of a brief road trip to Toronto & Montreal when I was 18. It wasn’t until viewing several Vancouver-based TV shows X-Files, First Wave, The Outer Limits and Stargate SG-1, that my curiosity was piqued.

During the summer of 2001, I was still living and working in New York City. I had been in the entertainment industry for several years before going to grad school for Social Work in 1989. Then, after a decade working as a social worker, I began to miss the media & entertainment industries. To fulfill my creative craving to get back into marketing, PR and web design, in addition to continuing my social work practice, I decided to start my own PR firm. Through simultaneous professional efforts and my love for science fiction television & film, I began doing long-distance publicity for an actor who had a recurring role on one of the hit sci-fi shows that was still in production in Vancouver at the time. In addition to being at a professional crossroad, I was also going through a devastating divorce. Toward the end of summer, I had made plans to travel to Vancouver for the first time to meet my actor client. I couldn’t wait to get away!

Fast forward to the morning of September 11, 2011…. or 9/11 as we’ve all come to call it. I vividly recall waking up and checking my email on AOL before heading out to the salon for a haircut in preparation for my upcoming trip. There was a slight news blurb on the AOL home page that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. I was scrambling and in a rush, so thinking it was either a joke or a stunt plane; I logged off and left the house. During my 15-minute drive to the salon, I turned on the car radio…and in an instant; my hometown… the world…and myself were forever changed. As I heard the announcer’s screams about the two towers crumbling, I pulled the car over and called my parents on my cell. They were watching this unfold on TV and confirmed what was happening. I froze for what seemed like an eternity. Not knowing what else to do, I proceeded to my destination, parked and headed over to the salon. Looking toward the sky, I could see smoke and clouds overhead and my cell phone went dead. The air became stagnant and the silence was deafening, except for sirens. Many of us huddled together at the salon trying to figure out what to do next. The fear that came over me was something I had never experienced living in NYC before. My city was under a terrorist attack!! As traumatizing as this was, in the aftermath, I felt even more compelled to get out of town.

I spent the next few days on the phone with as many airlines as I could reach. Somehow I was able to get a flight out as soon as the airports reopened a second time…from New York City to Texas. There was no guarantee that I would be able to get from Texas to Vancouver. I didn’t care. The possibility of being stranded in Texas be damned, I was getting on that plane!! It was a surreal experience being one of the first to fly out of NYC following the attacks. After about 6 hours on the security line with dogs sniffing and armed guards, I boarded my plane. When the flight took off, we flew over ground zero and could still see the smoldering below. It was chilling.

Despite the odds against me, I made it to Vancouver just days after the terrorist attacks. I had gone from being in New York City on 9/11; not knowing if there were going to be further attacks, to being on Vancouver’s Granville Island several days later. It was love at first sight. I’m sure the circumstances surrounding my introduction to Vancouver made it even more meaningful. The beauty of the city – the water, the mountains, the laid-back vibe had an immediate healing effect on me. I spent days sitting by English Bay pondering all that had happened, what it meant for me, for the world, what the future could be, writing in a journal, meditating and walking the sea wall. I knew immediately that this was going to be my new home.

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