Ground Zero, 9/11 Memorial & Battery Park Esplanade.
Oh, our gleeful exploration of this fabulous city continues. There is SO MUCH to see, and now that the weather is beginning to cooperate (I'm nervous to even type that, I don't want to spook it), Stevie and I are finding our way around a bit more. We had our dear friends Elliot & Lena in town, and we hit this city with them BIG TIME. Even when they're "just wanting to relax", those two know how to radically experience a city to its fullest. Perhaps you remember when they visited us in Boston?? Yeah, they're wild. And wildly fun. They know New York way better than us, so it was a blast following them around as the tour guides :)
The 9/11 Memorial.
We went downtown to the financial district and visited Ground Zero, where The Twin Towers once stood tall, at the National September 11 Memorial. Although the museum isn't open until May, this recently completed outdoor plaza was designed to honor the those who were lost to the horrific terrorist attacks that took place on Sept. 11, 2001. There are two sunken waterfall pools in the exact location of where the towers once stood, and the names of all the deceased are engraved around the pools.
It's a little bit haunting. A pensive place to reflect on those tragic events. The screeching sounds of the city are drowned out by the rhythmic fall of the water, and for a moment, you become a little bit numb. This lands marks the spot. Right here. Where planes smashed and people leapt to the ground from their burning buildings and where rubble and ash and smoke swallowed them up whole.
I'm sure most of us can still remember it like yesterday. I was in 8th grade gym class during 1st period, and Coach Cope sat my class down on the bleachers and explained that something terrible had happened. We didn't totally understand what a terrorist attack was, or why someone would target our country. I know, how naive right? So much has changed since then. But it's true. The rest of the day at school was basically a wash, we watched the news in every class and my teachers wept. Do you remember where you were when you found out about the attacks?
The Survivor Tree.
This is an incredible story. The callery pear tree you see (above), was originally planted in the 1970's in the vicinity of buildings 4 and 5 in the World Trade Center complex. The tree was severely damaged after the 2001 attacks and found in a pile of rubble, blackened trunk, snapped roots, probably completely charred and lifeless. The tree, 8 feet tall at the time, was transported and replanted in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The park's staff nursed the tree back to health and today, it stands over 30 feet tall in its newly replanted location at the 9/11 Memorial site. Every day the tree is freshly decorated with artwork, prayers and small tokens of gratitude by visitors of the park. It also comes with it's own armed guard. Seriously. And this callery pear stands vibrantly on its own amongst hundreds of white oaks in the plaza as The Survivor Tree.
If this building could talk, I think it would say, "DON'T MESS WITH US AGAIN." To me, it just looks like a giant middle finger to the rest of the world. It is so flipping humongous, standing leagues above the rest of the downtown highrises. When you look directly at the building, you might not think that it looks very tall. But then when you look again, especially as it relates to the dozens of other neighboring skyscrapers, you're kind of dumbfounded at its sheer colossal-ness.
Battery Park Esplanade.
Just a hop, skip and jump away from the the WTC site is the Battery Park Esplanade, a lovely walkway down by the water. Battery Park is at the tip of the island of Manhattan, where the East River and Hudson River combine. You can walk or jog along the wide path along the water and see the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn and New Jersey, all within one view. It's pretty amazing. You can also get a hot dog from a cart. Well, that's everywhere in New York. But I feel like it's just epic to take a bite of a delicious corn dog with yellow mustard while staring at Lady Liberty.
What a day. It felt really good to really soak in these moments of the city, the flavors and culture and landmarks. To be able to differentiate the silly from the serious and know that each serves a specific purpose in this town. Because there is a lot of silliness here. You have to appreciate that for what it is and at the same time, not get too enraptured by it. But for all the ridiculous there are equal amounts of seriousness, lending great importance to this city. While visiting the 9/11 Memorial is perhaps not the most fun you could have when touring NYC, it is seriously significant, time-worthy and valuable. And on the way home from this experience, you might find yourself actually using your thoughts instead of fiddling with your iPhone. So prepare yourself for that kind of reflection. Because you know what? It's good as gold.
Do you remember where you were when you found out about the 9/11 attacks?