I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Thursday, 25 June 2015

New York - Sunday 14th June

My thoughts this morning were “can we manage another day!”  It is so hot and stuffy in New York that we are totally exhausted and there are still two days left!

Still it was onwards and upwards and this morning we needed to be downtown by 10am to participate in a guided tour of Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial.  We were promised a guide with personal connections of the events of 9/11 and we weren’t disappointed.  John had worked in the South Tower but wasn’t due to start until later that day.  We met at St. Paul’s Chapel which, even though faces Ground Zero, wasn’t damaged on that fateful day as it was sheltered by a 70 year old sycamore treet. The Chapel was used as a control post, minor injuries centre and rest area.  The paint on the pews is still chipped from feet in heavy boots being rested on them.  The photo below is of memorabilia left by visitors from all over the world (notice the British police headgear).

Bell given to the people of New York by the people of London after 9/11
On our way to Ground Zero we passed the FDNY (Fire Department New York) Ten House.   This is across the street from the World Trade Center. It is the only fire station inside Ground Zero.  I’ve taken this from their website.  “For the firefighters of the Ten House, Sept. 11 was the day a blue sky turned black and bodies rained from the sky. They were beginning a new shift, at 8:46 a.m., when terrorists attacked the World Trade Towers.  The firefighters on duty all jumped up from the table and ran to the front of the apparatus bay. The sky was completely black. It was just all debris raining down on the street, papers on fire, pieces of computer, bodies just flying out, just things coming at the firefighters …”

From there we walked to Ground Zero.  What can I say about the place.  It was a Sunday morning with hoards of people but there was still an eerie-like silence. The Memorial features two enormous waterfalls and reflecting pools, each about an acre in size, set within the footprints of the original twin towers and are the largest manmade waterfalls in the North America.  The names of every person who died in the terrorist attacks of February 26th 1993 and September 11th 2001 are inscribed in bronze around the twin memorial pools. 

A callery pear tree became known as the "Survivor Tree" after enduring the attacks. In October 2001, the tree was discovered at Ground Zero severely damaged, with snapped roots and burned and broken branches. The tree was removed from the rubble and placed in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. After its recovery and rehabilitation, the tree was returned to the Memorial in 2010. New, smooth limbs extended from the gnarled stumps, creating a visible demarcation between the tree’s past and present. Today, the tree stands as a living reminder of resilience, survival and rebirth.

We then moved into the Museum.  This is an amazing place dug out about 70 feet below Ground Zero and has 110,000 square feet of publicly accessible space.  The pavilion above ground has a deconstructivist design, resembling a partially collapsed building (mirroring the attacks), and houses two tridents from the Twin Towers. One of the museum's walls is an exposed side of the slurry wall retaining the Hudson River, which remained intact during (and after) September 11.  There are a number of artefacts from 9/11, including steel from the Twin Towers (such as the final steel, the last piece of steel to leave Ground Zero in May 2002.

The slurry wall

The survivor staircase which served as an escape route for hundreds of evacuees
Base of the outer skeleton of the tower

The most moving part of the Museum is the memorial exhibition.  I have taken this from their website as it says it all.  “The memorial exhibition, In Memoriam, commemorates the lives of those who perished on September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 and provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about the men, women and children who died. Visitors enter the exhibition along a corridor in which portrait photographs of the nearly 3,000 victims form a "Wall of Faces," communicating the scale of human loss.

Nearby, touchscreen tables allow visitors to discover additional information about each person, including photographs, images of objects and audio remembrances by family, friends and coworkers. Rotating selections of personal artifacts are also featured. An inner chamber presents profiles of individual victims in a dignified sequence through photographs, biographical information and audio recordings.”

At this stage I’m afraid that I just needed to get out – I felt a wimp but the whole was just too much for me.

From there we walked towards Battery Park to pick up the hop-on hop-off bus.  On our way we passed the sculpture called Trinity Root.  This was inspired by the sycamore tree that protected St. Paul’s Chapel by absorbing the shockwaves.

We hopped on the bus and did a route round the east side.  Not the most attractive part of New York but one that was interesting to see.  We passed the UN building and Grand Central Station before getting caught up in the Puerto Rico Pride parade.  We didn’t see much just the traffic jams!

We hopped off the bus at Times Square and walked home for a well earned rest before heading back downtown again as we had an appointment at the top of the world at 9pm!  We found a lovely restaurant for dinner called Les Halles Downtown.  It was probably the best meal we have had for ages and we can recommend it.

It was then a hop, skip and a jump (well perhaps a slow walk) to One World Trade Center where I had booked to go up to the Observatory.  This only opened on May 29th so I had only booked it a few days before.  The elevator was amazing as it goes up to the 102nd floor in under 60 seconds.  There is floor-to-ceiling LED technology in each lift which show a virtual time-lapse that recreates the development of New York City’s skyline from the 1500s to present day.  It also shows how high you are.

At 1250 feet we emerged into the Observatory and saw all the lights of New York.  It was an amazing view though not the easiest to photograph with reflections in the windows.  There is a Sky Portal where guests are invited to step onto a 14 foot wide circular disc that delivers an unforgettable view, using real-time, high-definition footage of the streets below – not quite the same as the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth!

Here are a few photos I took from the top.

Sadly it started to rain just before we left the Observatory and by the time we got down to the ground it was pouring.  Of course we had no appropriate clothing and trying to get a cab in the rain in New York isn’t the easiest thing.  We finally found one and got back to the apartment tired and wet!

I want to end this post with photos of photographs on display in the 9/11 Museum.  I find them very moving.

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