By Jane Gonzalez-Meyer
I wanted to visit the Gateway Arch for years, but because both my mother and sister were afraid of heights, it seemed like a torturous activity for them rather than a mini family vacation. I waited four years for my opportunity, and finally, it came last summer.
One day while I was visiting a close friend who lives less than an hour away from St. Louis, his family wanted to go out and do something as a group. When they found out that I had never been in the Arch, they decided to remedy that.
When I saw the monument peaking out amongst the buildings as we traveled into the city, a jolt of excitement went through me.
Finally! After so many years I get to look at the city from inside the Arch!
The monument was packed that day, and as we waited in the museum, I noticed a contraption against a wall. When I asked my friend’s dad what it was, he said that it resembled one of the elevators that would take us to the top of the Arch.
A chill went down my back, and suddenly, I felt ice-cold. My hands became hot and clammy. I had never thought about how I was getting to the top of the monument. When I saw this tiny sphere that would be my elevator, I panicked.
Tight spaces were not my favorite environment, and scenarios of possible disasters quickly flew through my mind—all of them resulting in tears. I tried to mask my concern as I stood in line for the elevator, but once it was my turn to board, I started shaking.
I asked my friends to let me be by the little window in the front, and we all sat in a semi-circle, sharing the space with two other ladies. As the elevator clicked its way up to the top, I tried little breathing exercises. The two women were cheerfully talking to one another in Spanish and, at one point, mentioned how scared I looked, probably thinking that I didn’t know the language. I was just trying to prevent my heart from pounding out of my chest.
When we reached the top, however, I was in awe.
Windows along both sides of a path ran to the other elevators, and people crowded around one. I found a free spot at the windows and looked out across the Mississippi River. I went to the other side and admired all the tall buildings and packed streets filled with busy St. Louisans. The fear melted away as I realized just how small I was compared to this city.
The trip back down was easier, and I left the Arch, understanding why it was so significant to St. Louis. It symbolizes the city’s desire for progress and growth, as well as a dream of achieving bigger things.
Despite my fear, I conquered the Arch. I’m still working on getting my mother and sister to the top, but that’s a challenge for another day.
Read more of our St. Louis memories here. Please share your memories with us on Facebook, in our comments sections, or by emailing email@example.com. Check out our February 2014 issue for a massive story on St. Louis's 250 years, featuring FEAST Magazine Publisher and Editor Catherine Neville, radio personality Charlie Brennan, and more.