By Linda Parker
Special to The SUN
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are preparing for landing. Please make sure your seats are in their upright positions. Welcome to New York,” said the flight attendant.
“Mrs. Parker, never in a million years did I think I would ever get to come to New York City — and here we are.”
This is how this summer’s Pagosa Springs Girls Choir (PSGC) educational trip to New York City began. All members of the PSGC, including two alumnae members, traveled to New York City to experience a city that is famous for excellence in the arts, for welcoming many from other lands, and for storing much of this nation’s history. The city that never sleeps certainly lived up to its reputation.
One of the most interesting sights was watching the girls take in all the people and the traffic. They quickly learned that they were certainly not in Pagosa anymore. Maneuvering through LaGuardia Airport, onto a shuttle, through traffic to Chelsea and into our hotel let the girls know right away that they would have to watch out for each other and to stay together. It was difficult to keep focused on where we were going, especially as we walked through Times Square.
Many stops were made to simply give everyone time to take it all in. People, billboards, TV screens, advertisements for the latest musical that was showing, taxis honking — there was so much to see and hear.
One of the girls said of Times Square, “There are more people right here than there are in all of Pagosa.” She was correct.
Others commented on the pace at which people in New York move. We learned that a “New York minute” has no relation to “Pagosa time.” Additionally, we all have a new understanding of “huddled masses.”
All awoke the next morning in a “New York state of mind” and they were ready for an adventure. “East side, west side, all around the town” describes perfectly where the girls spent five extraordinary days. From the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and seeing paintings they had only read about and seen pictures of, driving by the cemetery where Alexander Hamilton is buried, experiencing the subway, to sitting in David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, the girls made many memories that will last a lifetime. Even walking through a torrential thunderstorm did not dampen their spirits as they boarded a ferry to take them to Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty.
This trip would not have been complete without taking advantage of the remarkable performances available in NYC. Lincoln Center was presenting its Mostly Mozart Festival, where the girls attended a concert of Mozart’s “Requiem” and Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 21.” The entire concert was beautifully done and the girls got a true glimpse of a professional adult choir at its best. The pianist was world-renowned, and since many of the girls study piano, they sat in amazement watching a concert pianist perform. They also had the opportunity to see a performance of “Stomp.” Rhythmic expertise, communication without words, and humor through music combined with audience participation for a stellar performance that everyone enjoyed immensely.
One of the most awe-inspiring visits was to the 9/11 Tribute Museum. The museum was created by survivors of 9/11 as well as families of those lost. The girls listened to story after story of how a life had been spared and how the New York Fire Department had responded on that horrific day.
These stories brought home to all of us the significance of the 9/11 memorial at the Pagosa Springs fire station on North Pagosa Boulevard, which includes a fragment of an I-beam from the World Trade Center.
Quite a few of the girls had visited the Bush Presidential Library on a trip to Dallas a few years back and they had some background knowledge about 9/11. At the Tribute Museum, the girls saw film footage that had been taken by people on the street as planes crashed into the World Trade Center. The girls were engulfed in the reality of what the world experienced and they began to understand how the entire world was affected.
The docent at the museum asked the girls to sing at the end of the tour, which they did gladly. All were in tears at the end of this remarkable experience. Upon our return to Pagosa, the girls’ docent sent the following email to Director Linda Parker.
“I have been a docent with Tribute since 2006. I have spent time with many, many people showing them the museum and telling them my story. In all those 12 years. I have never been so impressed with a group as I was with yours on Saturday. I was immensely impressed with the girls and the chaperones with their knowledge, wisdom, poise and compassion concerning 9/11. I was so honored to spend time with all of you at Tribute. I looked up your website. WOW! These girls are so very fortunate to have you and your staff enriching their lives. Their singing was the perfect ending! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for enriching my life with your spirit.”
Twenty tired girls have returned to Pagosa, to our beautiful mountains. They are filled with memories of a lifetime, they have formed new friendships, they have taken care of each other and they have a new sense of the world outside Pagosa.
Once again, the members of the PSGC have represented Pagosa in an extraordinary way. They are young ambassadors for our town, no matter whether at the MOMA, Lincoln Center, the 9/11 Tribute Museum or taking in the history of the Statue of Liberty.
Parker said, “I am so very grateful that we were able to give the girls this opportunity. It was very rewarding to me to see them soak in all that was available, to take in every sight and sound. This was a wonderful ending to our year.”
By Linda Parker