New Year in New York

7 January 2009 at 00:13 | 809 views

By Alhaji Jalloh, New Jersey, USA.

I understand that most government functionaries and business tycoons in Freetown disappeared in their offices days before the holidays. The reason might be to avoid those bumping into their offices to say "Pa u bobor den dae" meaning "Father, your boys are around,". Those are the boys going around the city in search of survival.

Though we have not spoken for a while now, I know my mentor,Mohamed D. Koroma, the able Deputy Information and Communication Lieutenant to ’Korthor’ I.B. Kargbo would be in his office as usual before President Ernest Koroma leaves his Hill Station Lodge for State House.

After performing his duties he was appointed for in October 2007, M.D. Koroma, (I fondly call him Ormalaika Senior) I would imagine, if there was no State assignment to perform, would head for the over 60 Miles journey to his native home of Mathoir, in the Tonkolili District.

But as usual, for the New Year celebration, like all over the world, Freetown begins its celeberation with fire works or shouting: "Happy New Year We Nor Die Oh! Tell God Tenki We Nor Die oh!" It’s a song in praise of God for witnessing another New Year.

New Year in UK

In London, I saw on my TV screen crowds lining the banks of the River Thames hours in advance of the fireworks display. They played a series of video messages, from the likes of London Mayor Boris Johnson, Actress Dame Helen Mirren and Homer Simpson. According to the news monitored, about 100,000 partygoers in Edinburgh watched fireworks and listened to live bands in sub-zero temperatures. Similar events took place place in Cardiff, Manchester and Birmingham

Australians saw the New Year 17 hours before New York and 12 hours before Freetown and other parts of Africa. CNN America reported that a recorded crowd of 1.5 Million people gathered around the iconic Harbor Bridge in Sydney to watch the fireworks.

Arab Nations
A number of Arab nations, according to BBC News, including Egypt, Syria and Jordan, cancelled theirs in solidarity with Palestinians in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip after a fifth day of Israeli air strike on the coastal enclave.

New York
In New York, almost a million people stormed the popular Times Square down town Manhattan in freezing weather. But what made the situation almost unbearable was the strong winds. But as I had planned to witness it and make use of the opportunity to see some personalities I admired long ago, I decided to make it up from my Jersey City residence, close to one of the world’s busiest cities.

As I arrived in New York, every year, I’m told, as the clock’s hands get close to midnight on December 31st, the eyes of the world turn once more to the dazzling lights and bustling energy of Times Square.

My observation then was that I suspect people held their breath...and cheered as the clock struck twelve. Then, the famous New Year’s Eve Ball descends from the flagpole. I saw a collective farewell to the departing year, and we expressed joy and hope for the year ahead. But I was there to also see some personalities I have admired for years.
Whilst President elect, Barrack Obama and family were celebrating New Year in his native Hawaii in a hot temperature, former President Bill Clinton and wife, Hillary Clinton (Now US Secretary of State) and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg were screaming in freezing weather enjoying fireworks filling the sky in downtown Manhattan.

Anderson Cooper
But more interestingly, CNN’s News Anchor and CBS Contributor, Anderson Cooper and Comedian Kathy Griffin were there talking to their viewers all over the world. I have enjoyed watching Anderson’s "Planet in Peril" and some of his programmes on CNN.

Cooper is an impassioned journalist. My first time of seeing him on TV was in 1990 when he went to cover the crisis in Somalia. And my first time of seeing him in person was on New Year’s Eve. So, I admired him long before he joined the CNN in late 2001. I have watched most of his major breaking stories, including the war in Afghanistan after Sept 11, the start of the Iraq War, the DC-area sniper story and the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion. So for me to catch a glimpse of him that day was great.

Another CNN Man I admired
Wolf Blitzer is another senior news anchor I admired for years. His programmes, The Situation Room on Mondays to Fridays and Late Edition on Sundays are very informative and educative. I have watched most of the programmes he moderated on presidential primary debates. He also anchored events including the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, the Democratic and Republican national conventions, election night from NASDAQ in Times Square and President George Bush’s second inauguration.

He is also known for his in-depth reporting on international news. He reported from Israel in the midst of the war between that country and Hezbollah during the summer of 2006. Whilst I was in Reston, Virginia in 2005, he was the only American news anchor I suspect to have covered the Dubai Ports World story on the ground in the United Arab Emirates. I saw commending UAE for its unique Five Star Hotels. He also traveled to the Middle East that year to report on the second anniversary of the war in Iraq.

Other Journalists I admire
I have always admired the late Alistair Cooke known for his famous Letter from America on the BBC. In his 58 years reporting, he offered his own view on some of the biggest events of the last half-century. Julian Marshall of the the BBC News hour fame is another journalist who is passionate about his programme. I started listening to him since 1992.

Former editor for the BBC African Service, Robin White who is well-known across Africa for his hard-hitting and probing interviews with politicians and other public figures from the African continent on the BBC’s African Service, is another great journalist. Late Chris Bickerton, former presenter of BBC Focus on Africa, in my opinion, was another powerful journalist.

I was shocked when his death was reported in May of 2002. Our Sierra Leonean brother, Hilton Fyle, a veteran presenter of BBC Network Africa, was a well-known name in the London African community and on the continent as well. His presentation from Mondays to Fridays, shouting: "From Mondays to Fridays, the BBC in London hits you with the indispensable BBC Network Africa" is still fresh in my mind.

We have very good journalists in Sierra Leone who can as well represent us as a nation anywhere in the world. Some of them are: veteran journalist, Sam Meteger, the BBC’s Lansana Fofana, For Di People’s Paul Kamara, Olu Gordon, the Publisher of Sierra Leone’s only satirical Magazine, Peep and C-MET Director, David Tam Baryoh.

I must not end this list of talented journalists without mentioning the name of Kingsley Lington. Lington is a very good columnist. Since he came to Sierra Leone from Nigeria, a good number of Sierra Leonean journalists have benefited a lot from him.

Back to New Year in New York, on the whole, I must confess that though most people in the United States spend New Year indoors, I really enjoyed my New Year’s Eve in New York and New Year itself in the most populous city in America.