The 21 Bus
by Myrna Yousuf
Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia is building an expanded archive of cultural memory that includes multiple histories, re-place-ing the established with new narratives and understandings. Notes consider place via the street, sound, food, trees, and other portals.
In partnership with educator Joshua Block, students from Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy are creating and publishing their Philadelphia Field Notes. Myrna Yousuf shares her history with the 21 bus.
Bus stops aren’t something we consider special, but they play a huge role in the lives of many people. Each stop marks a point or a place in the city. They are marked all over the city taking us all to our daily destinations. The bus stop located on 48th and Chesnut right next to a car dealership, was a key spot in my childhood. This is where I first started taking public transportation. The 21 bus became an essential part of my daily life for the first 3 years of my highschool life. I remember my bus route was just a straight ride to 22nd and Chesnut, but I was scared I would end up somewhere I didn’t recognize.
I’d stay alert making sure I got a view of everything we were passing by. I’d watch the people getting on the bus and I would always try to get a window seat. On cold snowy or rainy days I would watch cars passing by or how the river looked as I passed over the bridge. Some days the river would be covered in a sheet of ice and other days I could see the sunlight reflecting in it. The first few times I didn’t know when I should pull the cord to request a stop. After I got used to riding the bus to school, this stop became my daily spot to go to every morning.
No matter what weather, I’d be at the stop waiting for the bus to come at 7:30 am sharp. This was my only way of coming and going home. I still hadn’t taken any other methods of transportation. Even though the train was very close by I didn’t have the guts to take it. I was too afraid, I had no idea how to go on my own. I spent a lot of time waiting next to the stop in the freezing cold. I would anxiously wait for the bus to arrive so I could enter the warmth, I couldn’t feel my legs. I remember feeling like people would be watching me as I stood next to the stop. This stop has shaped my ability to travel on my own to learn how to get places on my own. Next time you are at a bus stop, you might think about how it may hold certain memories for you.