Thank You Note from a NYPD Counterterrorism Officer

I wrote Thursday about my encounter with three NYPD Counterterrorism officers who were on duty that day at Columbus Circle. Mr. Photographer and I were headed into Central Park to take some #celloeverywhere photos when the desire to play Bach for these men suddenly hit me. When I approached to ask them, I got too close. Their supervisor yelled “STAND BACK!” I ended up playing, one of them asked if they could see the photos, and we gave them a flyer.


That night, I received an email from one of the officers, who had also found and liked the photos we posted on Instagram. He’s given me permission to post it here:

Subject: Counterterrorism NYPD


If we startled you with our request to keep back, I am sorry. New Yorkers are notorious for a lack of personal space and with the long weapons out, it is a safety issue that we must prompt people to keep their distance–frequently abruptly. However I thoroughly enjoyed your music as we stood our post. To me, it was a serendipitous New York moment where clashing images seamlessly coexist as residents and tourists alike go on with their agenda, enjoying your music and shooting us concerned looks.

. . . I had our handler officer get the information from you because I loved hearing it, loved that moment that shows all the quirky things one can see on a New York City street. Please keep doing what your doing, and be safe.


PS, please feel free to ask for photos with the officers who do not have a rifle out, most are usually more than happy to oblige!

This was, of course, a delightful surprise. And it helped me realize that #celloeverywhere isn’t just a photo shoot. It is about playing for and with people, about connecting, just as all live music is.

I answered him with my thanks and an offer to play for him and his colleagues at a time and place when they aren’t on duty. He’s passed the offer along to his superiors.

I’ve deduced he’s about my son’s age (mid-twenties). As I go about the city, I keep noticing how young so many of the NYPD officers on duty in the subways and on the streets are. Of course, they are grown men and women, doing serious work, but they also could be my sons and daughters. I’m acutely aware that, unlike my own grown children, each is a potential target for terrorists, or isolated people who think they are terrorists, as was the case that same night in Philadelphia.

I worry about a lot of things. Too many and too much. “Generalized anxiety disorder.” Therapy, medication, meditation, it all helps some, but at times it is still paralyzing. I’m not alone in this, I know. Seems like half or more of the people I know have issues with anxiety and/or depression.

For some reason, though, I’m completely comfortable playing for people in these seemingly random encounters on the street. A new friend told me yesterday that this may be one of my “superpowers.” (We all have them, she says.)

Superpower or not, I’m pretty sure no one is going to shoot me because I’m playing the cello, so I haven’t invested in any Kevlar for this aspect of my work. I’m grateful to everyone in the NYPD and in law enforcement everywhere for their work keeping the rest of us safe.

Thanks again, guys.