9/11 Memorial

NYC Day 2 – Afternoon

I walked out of the lovely Met with my 9/11 memorial ticket in hand. It was time, after a lovely morning at the art museum, to do something I’d been putting off for a decade: visit Ground Zero. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing on the morning of September 11, 2001 and the memories and emotions attached to them came flooding to the forefront of my mind.

Luckily, my cab driver distracted me and tried to give me all the life advice I needed in the 20 minutes it took to drive all the way downtown. Thanks cabby, what would I do without your advice?

He dropped me off at a crowded corner where hundreds of people were funneling into a long switchback of lines to enter the memorial. I was actually an hour early for my entrance time, but the security guard at the front said it didn’t matter.

I stood alone between groups of tourists, shuffling along, trying to ignore the little girl behind me with no personal space that kept bumping into my butt. I looked at her father and he tried to hold her back, but she was a tailgater and there was nothing he could do about it.

The line enters a building where they scan your bags and send you through a metal detector. Along the walls are pictures of how cities all over the world reacted on that day. My tear ducts start to warm up as I look at the thousands of people all over the world in mourning.

As you exit this building and get in line again, you walk by a NYPD precint entrance and it reminds you of the first responders lost on that day. I put on my sunglasses at this point to cover my eyes that are starting to tear up.

I turn another corner and I’m walking towards the beautiful square fountains that mark the bases of the fallen twin towers. I get flashbacks from high school, when I stood in this exact area, twirling in circles between the two towers staring up towards the sky getting dizzy and laughing. I remember the wind that used to whistle between the two towers and I observe the wind is replaced by the rushing water of the fountains.

It’s crowded around the fountain so I walk towards a quieter side of the fountain and begin to read the names of the victims engraved in the wall surrounding the fountain. The names are organized by building, flight, or first reponders. I read in my brochure that the family and friends of the victims provided information about the relationships of the fallen, so the memorial designers could place victims that were friends and colleagues next to each other in the long list of names scattered around the two square fountains.

I read the names and wonder about their friendships and what they were doing before the event occurred. At this point, I’m sniffling and crying. I look around at the crowd and wish I could just be alone with this place for one moment. But this is New York City, where you are never alone and I accept that as fact and move on.

I look up at the new shiny World Trade Center tower being built and take a deep breath. I decide that maybe I can find some peace in that church I remember on Wall Street. So I work my way out of the memorial and grab a bottle of water at Starbuck’s on my way to Wall Street, to rehydrate my tear ducts.

The streets around wall street are very narrow and the buildings are extremely tall. I zig this way, zag that way, and come upon a huge crowd of people walking outside the church I was looking for, that’s just one block over from the New York Stock Exchange. I stare at the two police officers in their blue uniforms standing outside the church giving directions to tourists passing by. I get that warm teary feeling again, but I walk past them and enter the church.

I remember this church as a peaceful place to find solitude, but I run into a clog of tourists in the back of the church taking pictures. There are some in the pews praying, but there are tourists sitting in the pews talking and laughing. I roll my eyes and walk down the left aisle towards the front trying to find a quieter section. I kneel and cross myself with the trinity, like I used to do when I was a kid and enter a pew.

I haven’t been to church since a friend’s wedding a few years ago. But I kneel down on the prayer cushion and pray in the memory of all those names I just saw at the memorial. I think of my Irish Catholic grandmother that used to take me to church and I imagined her looking down on me and smiling.

Finally, I took a deep breath, lifted myself up and walked back out into the crowded streets of financial district tourists. I walk down to the front of the New York Stock Exchange building and take a few pictures of myself and the huge American flag strung across it’s columns. I get tired quickly of the crowds again and walk down the street to see the Charging Bull where there are even more people crowded around.

That iconic bronze bull is the center of attention for over a hundred tourists waiting to get pictures next to it’s head… and another hundred waiting to take pictures next to his behind. I scoff at the tourists rubbing the bull’s balls and walk away slightly traumatized that women the same age as my mother would pose next to bull testicles for a picture.

I realize my feet are starting to hurt at this point. After all, I had walked 30 blocks up 5th Avenue this morning and all through the Met and then a walking tour of Ground Zero and the Financial District. The closest subway is by the water where you catch the Staten Island Ferry. As I’m walking towards the subway entrance, I turn at the last minute to enter the ferry station. The ferry was on my list of free things to do and I figured I might as well give it a go, as long as I’m right next to it.

I walk into the station and wait by the doors for the boat to pull up. As the minutes pass by, people filter in and surround me. I must have just missed the ferry when I walked in. The large room is beginning to fill up and there’s no sign of the ferry. A fellow tourist asked me if I’ve done the ferry before and I explain that I hadn’t and talk to her for a while.

Eventually, I decide that my feet have reach their limit and turn to catch the subway. Of course, as I’m exiting the terminal, I look back and see the ferry pulling up. But at that point, I didn’t care anymore. I caught the correct subway train back to Chelsea and headed to my room to take a nap.

I knew I had a long evening ahead of me. I had plans to meet up with a friend for dinner and clubbing later. I had to rest up!

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