What do you do when you are exiting the UN headquarters and find all the doors locked and nobody around? It was only my first time attending an UN event as a youth representative of the CCNY NGO. I am sure that it will be a memorable experience that I will savor for many years to come.
The topic of the UNAOC event I attended was “Media and Information Literacy: Educational Strategies for the Prevention of Violent Extremism”. The panelist shared great insight into the way the media–traditional and new–are being utilized by all sides to wage a war of opinion. How can we properly utilize the power of media to win the hearts and minds of young people world-wide, or at least prevent them from falling into the abyss of violent extremism?
I was so enthralled by the discussion that I stayed in the chamber after the main event adjourned and chatted with the keynote speaker. And even after everyone else left, I sat down for another moment to gather my thoughts. By the time I snapped out from my reflections, it has gotten quite late. So I packed my things and headed for the lobby from which I entered.
The whole way from the bookstore to the lobby I didn’t see anyone else around. By the time I reached the class doors toward the visitors’ entrance, I was shocked to find that they were locked. Every single one of those doors. For a second my head went blank…I got locked in at the UN?!?
The good thing was that I was left bewildered by that predicament for only about five minutes. I was soon joined by a dozen others who were in the building attending various meetings and now needed to head out. I was comforted in having companions facing the problem together, but none of us knew what to do.
We tried returning to the book store level to see if we can find a custodian on duty. We found only an abandoned mop bucket. We tried heading back toward the conference rooms to see if there are security guards still around. We didn’t get that far.
We were lucky to run into a lady on wheelchair who knew what to do. She first took us back to the lobby to examine the doors to make sure that they are utterly and completely locked. Then she proceeded to take us on a serpentine journey toward a potential alternative exit.
It was quite a long way through the underbelly of the UN buildings. We passed by chambers and walkways and exhibits and offices. We made so many turns that I doubt I can retrace that path if I had to do it again by myself. But at last we made it out of the UN complex at an exit near 42nd Street.
I was so relieved to breathe the night air after I got out. I turned back to look at the behemoth that is the UN complex and thought to myself: What a remarkable first day! While it wouldn’t have been completely horrible to actually get locked in at the UN overnight, I sure was glad that I was able to get out and make it home for dinner. It was a great experience, and I look forward to my next visit. Hopefully I’ll get out normally next time.