By Megan Hansen/News editor

I’ve never really liked big cities that much. I don’t like the pollution, the noise or the masses of people that file by you on the street.At least I thought I didn’t like all this stuff until I got the opportunity to spend four days in New York City this past weekend.

I absolutely loved every minute I spent in New York City and was not ready to come home Sunday night. Don’t get me wrong, I like Kentucky but I fell in love with everything about New York City while I was there.

My trip to New York was not just a pleasurable trip; I headed to The Big Apple to attend a convention. The 2004 national Society of Professional Journalists’ convention was in New York City and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to network, while spending time in what is known as one of the greatest cities in the world.

From the moment I stepped off the plane, I knew my New York experience was going to be awesome. My trip started off in one of New York City’s famous yellow taxi cabs.

After being dropped off at the convention hotel, The Grand Hyatt at Grand Central Station, all I had to do was walk downstairs to explore Grand Central Station. All I can say about Grand Central is ‘wow.’ It was absolutely beautiful, like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

The opening reception of the convention took place on the U.S.S. Intrepid. I also got the chance to go on a cruise and got to see New York City from the water at night.

The most rewarding event from the convention was the opportunity to meet nationally and internationally known journalists.

I got to attend a convention session with Walter Cronkite and Brian Williams. Getting to hear both professionals speak in person was absolutely incredible. I also met Bill Moyers before he spoke to the entire convention.

Former White House correspondent Helen Thomas was also present at the convention. I met her and had my picture taken with her. She signed my convention program “Go into journalism. You will never regret it. Best wishes, a fellow journalist, Helen Thomas.”

Growing up, I always looked up to Helen Thomas, and meeting her was the highlight of the convention.

My entire trip to New York was not spent at the convention. I was given the chance to explore New York City.

Visiting New York City, no matter what time of year it is, is always exciting. I felt privileged to be in New York City on Sept. 11.

I did not go to Ground Zero on Sept. 11, but I did make it there on Sept. 12. I didn’t know what to expect as I walked towards the site. One of America’s worst tragedies happened at this spot, and I was about to see it.

The first thing I noticed as I peered through the fence was the sheer size of Ground Zero. It looks big on television, but when you are looking at it in person, it looks even bigger.

Since it was the day after Sept. 11, there were memorials on the fences that surround Ground Zero. There were handwritten notes to loved ones who died three years ago as well as flowers decorating the fence.

Ground Zero was the only place in New York that was quiet. People were respectful of the tragedy that took place and were taking in the entire atmosphere.

If anyone is ever in New York City, they should go to Ground Zero. I wouldn’t say my visit to Ground Zero was the highlight of my trip, but it did mean a lot to me to see it.

New York City is someplace that everyone should visit. After visiting New York City, I want to move to New York City and work for The New York Times or another major New York City paper. This trip changed my life.

*Editor’s note: Megan is a senior journalism major from Lexington. She is the news editor for The Progress.