Students view city's memorials to loss

The first step in our journey to Kampala, Uganda, did not involve a strange, new foreign city, but one in our very own nation: New York City. For some, it was a familiar experience. For others, it was a new one, with unexpected turns at every corner.

I had been here before. It was nice to see familiar places, as well as new or newly improved ones, around the city with my new comrades. I was excited to return to the “Big Apple” for the first time in several years.

Still, as we walked around the bustling city, I was in awe. I wondered how this compared to Kampala, both considerably different from the relatively small city we live in.

Everything we saw was beautiful, from Central Park’s Sheep Meadow and Strawberry Fields to the Charging Bull by Arturo Di Modica, now stared down by the Fearless Girl by Kristen Visbal.

The most powerful visit, thought, was to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. All of us spread across the street to look up at the towering Freedom Tower that honors of all those people who lost their lives almost 16 years ago. Looking down into the cascading waterfall that honors one of the fallen towers and all of the people who went down with it was an emotional moment.

However, the part that had the most meaning foreshadowed our lives for the next month: the top of the tower illuminated red in honor of the AIDS walk set for Sunday in Central Park.

It was beautiful. The bright red color stood out against the dark sky.

The Freedom Tower was not the structure honoring the walk. As we exited the city, two other buildings stood out in the skyline, including the Empire State Building.

It makes me wonder that if this is how the United States honors those bravely pushing through life with the virus, how do those in Uganda, where 7 percent of the population is HIV-positive, represent the situation.

I guess we’ll soon find out.