Growing up in Hialeah, Florida, my friends and I had it great. Our childhood and teen years were as close to the “Happy Days” era as life could possibly get, but without The Fonz, Ralph Malph, Ritchie or Potsie. We had our equivalents, though.

The worst thing I can recall ever happening in my neck of the woods was the time my idiot cousins and I almost blew up the newly installed sewer system. It was just stupid kids doing stupid things with fire and things that go BOOM!

It was truly an era of innocence and life was simple. We had fun, we grew up and we went our own ways. I heeded the call of “Go west, young man” and so now I’m here.

It was in California that I would decide to ride out the rest of my tenure, also known as life, here on Earth. California life isn’t that easy, though.

We’ve had it all: fires, earthquakes, drought, floods, the L.A. riots, recession and the infamous electricity crisis. Yes, life in the enchanted land of California is sometimes not so enchanted. We have our share of hard times and problems.

Still, I believe that California is the best place to live and the thing that fascinates me is the ability of Californians to bounce back from disaster time and again.

Call it transplanted pride, but the fact stands that my love for California runs deep and I am grateful for everything that life here has provided me with.

I truly am thankful and proud. Considering everything we Californians have ever endured, believe me when I say that things could be worse. Much worse.

Lately the national focus has been on New York and with good reason. The Big Apple has undergone some tough times as of late. Sept. 11, 2001, defined a tragic moment that put New York and its residents in the national spotlight.

Watching the New York firefighters and police department’s attempts to rescue people from the carnage known as the World Trade Center was an observation of bravery and courage. As we watched the towers come down on that fateful day my heart went out to those who I knew would not survive that terrorist-induced holocaust.

Bearing witness to those surviving firefighters and policemen sift through the rubble in an attempt to rescue anyone they could showed me the true definition of the human spirit. As the days went by we saw a national figure in Mayor Rudy Giuliani as he executed his duties to become “America’s Mayor” in our hearts.

Now there’s the recent airplane crash in one of New York’s residential areas to only make matters worse. I’m sure New Yorkers must be asking themselves when will it stop.

The Big Apple will never be the same, just as California has changed after each crisis we’ve faced. It kind of made me wonder how we would’ve handled matters had the terrorist scum succeeded in executing attacks on our home.

We’ve handled things in the past, but I don’t think that anything compares to what New Yorkers have been forced to endure. Yet, they’re enduring.

To survive in the face of adversity makes one stronger in the end, and if this proves true, then New Yorkers will have hearts of steel when it is all said and done.

I must admit that I was never too keen on New York. To me it was an overcrowded freak show with high rents and a high crime rate to boot. There was never any reason for me to even as much as think of New York. But as of Sept. 11 all that changed for myself and many others as well. The spirit of that town amazes me and I’m deeply touched.

This last airplane crash tragedy has provided me with an even softer spot in my heart for the Big Apple. I have to hand it to New York; you guys got fortitude. No doubt about it.

So from my safe home in Isla Vista, California I send the best of thoughts and prayers to those wonderful people in New York. You guys have been through enough and better times will come your way. You deserve it.

New York has proven to the world that a community can come together to overcome tough times. Tragic times in New York have also served to bring Americans together to overcome the results of the evil acts of Sept. 11 in a way that cannot be questioned and remains to be seen elsewhere.

As I write this the news is showing pictures of the recent air disaster in the Big Apple and my heart goes to the victims of this latest tragedy. My heart also goes out to the population of New York. They have truly been through more than their share of tough times and deserve our support.

As stated earlier on, California is where I will live out the rest of my life and my love for this place runs deep. But as of lately I’ve made room in my heart to say something I never thought that I would ever say: I love New York.

Henry Sarria is a longtime Isla Vista resident and a frequent contributor to the Daily Nexus.