...the one in which we are moved to tears....
First, I must apologize for the long delay in my blogging...what with the death of a friend, and then trying to get the family from Florida to Kansas City, and then getting ready for school - yadda, yadda, yadda. You know how it is. Gah.
Anyway. Back to our NYC adventures...and today's post continues on with Wednesday, June 26....We left our intrepid travelers exploring the lower end of Manhattan - the Financial District. After an interesting (to Hubby, at least) tour of Wall Street, we'd just finished up a delightful lunch....It was now time for our next stop - a visit to the September 11 memorial site.
If you haven't yet visited the site where the World Trade Center buildings were brought down in the terrorist act on September 11, 2001 - I should probably first explain that - although it's most definitely worth a visit - they don't make it easy to visit. Nope. Not at all. Security is tight, understandably - and at this time, you can't just "stroll" to the area where the buildings used to stand. You have to have a ticket - which are free - but the whole process of obtaining the tickets can be cumbersome.
I don't do cumbersome.
I like easy.
So...with that in mind...I pre-booked a guided tour (that included our tickets) with the 9/11 Tribute Center. Our tickets were $20 apiece, which included admission to their 9/11 Gallery, as well as a guided walking tour of the Memorial Site. (I should note here that the 9/11 Tribute Center Gallery is NOT the official museum - which is still under construction at the actual site) The Tribute Center was located just one block from Zuccotti Park, which was extremely convenient for us. The Center is just opposite the World Trade Center construction site, and is easily located.
Upon arriving at the Gallery, we spent some time wandering through the exhibits...which are extremely moving and poignant. The first exhibit focuses on the construction of the World Trade Center, and a brief film shows what life was like in and outside the buildings.
There is then a timeline of the events that unfolded on September 11, interspersed with items and artifacts that were found in the debris. Keys. A fireman's coat and helmet. A cell phone. An identification card. Common, everyday objects that are now tied in with one of the nations' worst tragedies.
What's the story behind these? You wonder what happened to the people who these items belonged to....
Part of one of the airplanes....
You then encounter a wall that is covered with the "Missing" signs that sprang up immediately after the attack, when the desperate residents of NYC were searching for their lost family members, friends and co-workers. Knowing that their search was in vain, it was heartbreaking to read the almost-frantic, pleas for help - any help - in finding their loved ones.
An entire 10 x 30' wall is plastered with heartbreaking photos of the people that were killed in the attack. Although the museum was somewhat crowded, you could have heard a pin drop as people looked at the photos:
Again, this isn't the 'official' museum...but wow. It's powerful. It's very well done. It sets the story so that when you finally DO walk over to the actual site of the attack, it will be just that much more meaningful. I HIGHLY, HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend you visit this.
If I can't convince you, I encourage you to read this short blog from a fireman who was encouraged to visit the Tribute Center - and then wrote this moving article about his experience. Click HERE for his beautiful story.
All-too-soon, it was time for us to head out in front of the Tribute Center to meet up with our tour guide and group. The thing that I like about the 9/11 Tribute Center is that they use tour guides who have a personal connection with the World Trade Center. They're not just random strangers that they pulled in off the street...these are people who either worked at the buildings, or had a relative who worked there. In our case, we had this gentleman, who worked for many, many years in one of the upper floors of Tower 1:
We had a group of about twenty, and each of us were given a headset, so that we could hear Jim as he explained where we were going, and what to expect when we got there. Our first stop was literally just around the corner from the Tribute Center, at the FDNY Memorial Wall, located at Firehouse 10, directly across the street from WTC site:
A 56-foot-long and six-foot-high bronze memorial, bolted to the side of the firehouse, and a beautiful tribute to the 343 firefighters who died on September 11th. The memorial depicts the flaming towers, as well as weary men laying down hose lines. Underneath the memorial are the names of every firefighter who died that day.
Daughter and I...as well as our group...listen to the story of the memorial....
We left the FDNY Memorial Wall, and then walked towards the WTC site. Here is where it can get VERY confusing, and why it can be helpful to be part of a tour group. Jim explained what would be happening - and his directions through our headsets were invaluable. We not only had to go through airport-like security (x-ray machine, etc), but we had to show our 9/11 Visitor Passes not once...not twice...but THREE times to security guards. THREE TIMES. It's crazy. It's chaotic. There are people everywhere - and it was a blessing to have Jim be our shepherd, leading us lost sheep. There was another guide, Theresa, who was stationed behind the twenty of us, to insure that none of us got lost or separated during this crazy process.
Once we had gone through all the checkpoints, we walked into the site....It consists of a complex of various things - the waterfalls, where the original towers stood, as well as the new museum under construction - and it took a minute to take it all in. Jim first took us to the site where the original North and South towers once stood:
Jim described what it was like to work in the buildings, day-to-day...and he then had us spellbound with his own survival story that day...of feeling the building sway...of going down endless stairs...the sights...the sounds....
He then told us of the waterfalls...their design...their purpose...and the plans for the future of the site. He mentioned that it's a fitting tribute to touch the water...and then touch a name on the base:
Touching the water...DON'T lean over to touch, but go underneath....
Touching the names....
As if his story wasn't emotional enough...Miss Theresa then began her story. She is the mother of firefighter Michael D. Mullan...who was killed on September 11th while trying to evacuate the Marriott Hotel located at the World Trade Center site. Here, she tells us of how he died that day:
Oh. My. Goodness.
I cried. Daughter cried. Hubby cried. I think all twenty of us cried...and who could blame us? She spoke with such love, such pride, for her son...and she then passed out pocket-sized, laminated cards to each of us, so that we would "always remember" her son.
As if we could ever forget.
Soon, it was time to say goodbye to both Jim and Miss Theresa...but not without some hugs. We took our card and went on a hunt, determined to find Michael D. Mullan's name on the waterfall and pay him tribute:
Could we have done the memorial site on our own? Yes.
After spending a few more moments at the waterfalls, we walked over to take in the new "Freedom Tower", or, as it's officially known, One World Trade Center:
1,776 feet high...pretty impressive....
Still under construction, it's now the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Take that, Osama Bin Laden.
Speaking of "tall"...as we were heading out of the area, we noticed a bit of a commotion...television cameras, people swarming...and then realized that several young men were visiting the memorial site and attracting a bit of a crowd. Obviously, from their height, we assumed (correctly) that they were basketball players:
Turns out that the NBA Draft was being held that evening in Brooklyn...so some of the young draftees were visiting the Memorial Site that day.
Alex Len (who was drafted 5th) and Otto Porter (who was drafted 3rd)...towering over their handlers....
All-in-all, we had a very moving and emotional afternoon. How could you not? But - the added stories from our guides were pretty amazing, and I'm SO glad we invested the time - and money - for that added bonus. Daughter was particularly moved, and for that - I'm grateful.
Because it's a bit confusing, I'm going to re-summarize your options on visiting the World Trade Center site:
Option #1: You can click HERE for FREE passes that can be picked up at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site at 20 Vesey St. (Although, they DO charge a $2.00 fee for online reservations) I visited this site in February, and wasn't that impressed with their "museum." Not much to it...but...it was free.
Option #2: You can click HERE for $20 passes that can be picked up at the 9/11 Tribute Center at 120 Liberty Street. This is the one I HIGHLY recommend, as you not only gain entrance to their museum - which was EXCELLENT - but you get the guided walking tour of the site itself.
Option #3: Your last option is to go with a guided tour from an outside company, such as Greyhound or Viator. There are numerous tour companies online that will take you to the site and get you in.
Remember - you CAN'T just show up and expect to walk right in to the site. You MUST have a pass.
Choose Option #2. And take Kleenex.