Traci Pershy is a surgical technician at Wayne County Hospital. Rhonda Jensen is a CPA. This past week, the pair were revelers at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
Traci went to high school with Dr. Randy Metzger of Wayne County Hospital.
“He was my lab partner in biology or chemistry,” Traci said. “The only reason I passed that class was because of him. He was super smart.”
It was not Rhonda and Traci’s first trip together. They have traveled to Las Vegas, the Gulf Coast of Florida, Hawaii, and the Dominican Republic.
“Hawaii was an adventure,” Rhonda said. “We did ziplining, hiking, jumped off waterfalls, rode mountain bikes back down the mountain on Maui. Then we did a day trip to Pearl Harbor on Oahu.”
“The Dominican was more of a relaxation trip,” Traci said. “We just laid around by the beach and the pool. Florida, we took our kids for a weekend getaway to the beach.”
They gambled and went to shows like Cirque de Soleil in Las Vegas.
Rhonda had been to Black Friday in the Big Apple before, but Traci had not yet crossed it off her bucket list. After some coercion, Traci talked her friend into a cold-weather vacation.
“We were looking to not leave the country this time,” Traci said. “And take a little trip before tax season starts again.”
“I didn’t go to the 9/11 memorial before, because it wasn’t open yet,” Rhonda said. “That was something new I really wanted to go to. There are two fountains, one for each tower. Seeing all the names [of the victims] around that, and inside the museum, it took you back to that day, and made you remember everything.”
“They had stuff from the wreckage,” Traci said. “Audio and video of people telling stories of what it was like. They had audio of some of the 911 calls. They didn’t allow photography. It was an eerie feeling walking through the museum. People were quiet.”
“You felt connected to all the other people there,” Rhonda said. “It affected everybody. Everybody felt it, around the world.”
“And looking down into the fountains,” Traci said, “because the fountains go down in—it’s just breathtaking. There was a building here—it was crazy. Even when we were on Ellis Island, you can look across the bay and see where the towers used to stand, and it’s just an empty space.”
One of the women’s stops was a Broadway show at Gershwin Theatre in Manhattan, Wicked, about the witch from The Wizard of Oz.
“The costumes and the set are just exquisite,” Rhonda said. “The performers are top notch.”
“Our hotel was right there by Times Square,” Traci said. “We could walk to restaurants, shopping, Rockefeller Center and to the Broadway show.”
“We were at a great location,” Rhonda said. “It’s definitely different from Wayne County, Iowa. Mainly the traffic. There were tourists from all different countries.”
From the airport to their hotel took an hour and a half by taxi cab.
“We probably ran into the biggest crowds when we were Black Friday shopping,” Traci said. “All the stores were multi-level. Macy’s had seven floors, and most of the rest were four levels—something we’re not used to seeing in the Midwest. We spent a lot of time at Macy’s due to all the levels to get through.”
“I think it’s crazier here, actually, on Black Friday,” Rhonda said. “If you go to the big box stores here, it’s crazier than in New York City when we went into the stores.”
They stayed at the Manhattan Hotel at Times Square, on the 16th floor, with a view of 7th Avenue.
“At nighttime, we had to flip the air conditioning on just to have the [white] noise,” Traci said. “Because all night long you hear the taxis honking, sirens and the traffic and all that. We had the fan on so we could sleep.”
Because it was the week of Thanksgiving, though they booked their trip two months in advance, they were not able to get tickets to go up to the crown of the Statue of Liberty. They took a tour around the base.
“Ellis Island had more of an effect on me, because that’s where the immigrants came in,” Rhonda said. “To go back and think what our ancestors did to get into this country, and the conditions they travelled in.”
“And they have room by room the process they had to go through,” Traci said. “You get off the boat, you’re shuffled into this room. Some people got rejected, some people got separated from their families. They went in every different direction. They had the big book, and you could look through to try to find your ancestors’ name.”
Rhonda and Traci got up at 5 p.m. to get in line at 6 p.m. for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. They stood across from Radio City Music Hall.
“The parade didn’t start until nine, and it was 38 degrees, so we were all bundled up,” Traci said. “We had our Starbucks, and we made friends quickly with the people waiting next to us—their kids came with a band and a cheer group to march in the parade.
“We took Hot Hands like hunters have. I think I had three stuffed in my boot, some in my back pocket, some in my gloves.”
One person wore a pilgrim’s costume. Another was a turkey. Another person had a cowbell, for some reason. A woman played Christmas music over a megaphone.
Though it was 38 degrees outside, the boy band in the parade was 98 Degrees.
“It brought us back to our high school days,” Traci said. “Because we were listening to them 15 to 20 years ago.
“These balloons go by, and they’re enormous. Fifty people holding on to the strings. They’re not like your floats at Old Settlers. At 6 a.m., there were still workers taking down stoplights so the balloons can come through.
“Security was tight. They had a lot of cops and bomb-sniffing dogs. Especially with the stuff that’s happened lately.”
After the parade, they had reservations for a restaurant, The Rock Center Café, which overlooks the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. They ate a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
They flew into Newark and flew back home from LaGuardia. They arrived Tuesday and left on Saturday.
“I just remember the sun was rising,” Traci said, “I thought it was really pretty leaving, looking back over the Washington Bridge, with the sun coming up over the city, because you can look down the street at these tall, tall buildings, and it looks like it’s never ending.”