25th July 2018
Another action packed day ahead.. I am booked onto a 2 hour tour of the 9/11 Memorial site at 12 so I’d better get my skates on. Given the early morning shenanigans I am late getting up this morning… grrr..
The meeting point for the tour is St Pauls Chapel, I get an Uber to Journal Square and there is a direct train all the way to WTC, (World Trade Centre), so travelling there is very straight forward…. allegedly…
First things first, I need to sort out my PATH tickets so I purchase a 10 trip pass, that should be plenty; no more ticket problems, I hope, for the rest of my stay. I actually arrive at WTC in plenty of time…. ohhhh shopping. As I exit the train I pass this memorial and I get my first impactful glimpse of just how emotional this tour is going to be…
In memory of the Port Authority Police who lost their lives on September 11th 2001… so very sad.
The PATH terminus is in a building called the Oculus and very impressive it is too.
and there’s shopping… hahaha. Yes, I do….
I also grab myself some breakfast and soon it’s time to make my way to the rendezvous point at St Pauls Chapel… mmm, but where is it?? I look it up on google maps and work out a walking route… walking, walking, walking… this is deja vu from Spain 2006 methinks. It’s starting to rain… seriously?? Luckily I just bought a shower jacket in Sketchers… oh yes, to go with my new trainers, the old ones are in the bin. Still walking, the route changes several times and I am now completely lost.. just then I happen upon two people in what appear to be police uniforms, but it’s hard to tell here because there are so many uniformed services. Anyway, I obviously look lost and the woman asks me ‘Whereya headed?’ ‘I’m looking for St Pauls Chapel’ ‘Ok, ya passed it, back two blocks make a right and down two blocks, make a left and it’s there on the left’, ‘thank you so much… google maps is shit!’ They laugh and say ‘have a nice day’… it’s raining and I’m lost, yep having a fabulous day so far…not! I thank them and start back the way I have just come.
Her directions cannot be faulted and I arrive at the church at 12.07.. yep I’m late… I am supposed to meet the guide at the bell in the churchyard.. I walk around the back and spy a small group of people under the shelter of a portico with a rather rotund man who appears to be doing all the talking… I wonder if that is my group? Yep, it is… whew! Mr RM gives me a radio so that I can hear his talk… very good. He has just started so I haven’t missed anything, which is great. We are meeting at this church because even though the twin towers stood just a few hundred metres away and all of the buildings that were destroyed or damaged are next door to this church it was absolutely unscathed.. even the stained glass windows survived, which is a bit of a miracle… if you believe in such things, but I have to say it is amazing because the devastation was so complete in this small area.
Here is the bell at which we were supposed to meet, and the start of the tour…
Mr RM man’s name turns out to be Mark…. and here he is…
He is a New Yorker and used to work in the financial industry, but gave that up to become a tour guide. Clearly, he didn’t work in the fashion industry… ooooo bitchy!!
He is actually an excellent guide, very informative and seems a genuinely nice guy. Now, one would assume we would go straight to the twin tower memorial site, but no, Mark takes us everywhere else, all the buildings that have been rebuilt.. WTC2, WTC3 and of course WTC1 but there were actually 7 buildings destroyed or demolished and some replacements are still under construction. I have to say it was absolutely fascinating and a wonderful way to experience the history and tragedy that is WTC New York… here are some of the photographs of the buildings.. starting with the fabulous Oculus, from the outside…
So, why Oculus I hear you think…. well, Mark explains… it has two meanings; Eye and Window, but there is and was tremendous controversy surrounding this building.. the cost was $30 billion for what is essentially a PATH station and shopping mall. Well, whatever the cost and disagreements I think this is a spectacular building and, for me, a fitting focal point in the rebuilt WTC site that is one in the ‘eye’ to the terrorists!
There was so much information and detail I am not about to try and reproduce it here. If you are planning a trip to NYC, of course you will visit the WTC, I mean who wouldn’t, get yourself booked onto a guided tour, it only cost me $25 so its not even expensive and just so worth it.
This is the Brookfield Centre which is WTC3 rebuilt…
The pool is the American Express 11 Tears Memorial. It has the names of the 11 staff who were killed on 9/11 around the edges and the 600lb, 11 sided quartz crystal ‘diamond’ hangs down from the ceiling into the centre focusing ones attention under the surface of the water to inscriptions fanning out to each name describing something about that person by their family and friends. You can also see the ripples in the surface of the water. Each side of the 11 sided pool has its own droplet falling from the ceiling to represent tears for each victim. What a poignant and thoughtful memorial by the company these people worked for.
The buildings that replace the originals lost due to 9/11 all have some significance whether it be emotional or architectural and, again, I strongly urge anyone to get a tour guide because its almost impossible to experience this monument without one.
As you can see, almost all of the reconstructed buildings are of steel and glass, they echo the ribbed structure of the original twin towers and reflect one another so that the twin tower replacements are seen in every surface.
Another significant object was a piece of sculpture that somehow managed to survive the disaster. This orb, or sphere, was at the very centre of ground zero and although badly damaged managed to survive the collapse of the twin towers on top of it.
Talking of sculpture, this cross was created as a commemorative piece.
Again very poignant.. hopefully you can read the description, I don’t want to re-type it.
We then visit the fire station next to the site, the members of which were virtually wiped out… the NYFD memorial is here..
Like the Port Authority memorial, when you see the faces of the individuals it really hits home… so brave and selfless.
And the pain goes on… the NYPD memorial…
I believe this commemorates all fallen officers both before, as a result of and after 9/11.
And finally, we visit the main area… the twin pools that stand in the footprint of the twin towers. Mark gives us a brief overview then leaves us to our own devices.
There are no words….
We reassemble as a group for a short talk from Mark… he points out a few things we may have noticed and not understood, for example: the significance of the white flowers…
The 9/11 memorial committee, everyday, commemorate the birthday of the fallen by placing a white flower on their name on their birthday…. gulp!
There is a tree… a special tree as this tree survived the desolation… It is called the Survivor Tree – Survivor Tree WTC Memorial
You can see where friends and family and possibly others have left momenta and notes on the railings surrounding the tree.
Then the talk is over… I have thoroughly… not enjoyed as this is not a fitting word in my view… appreciated the effort Mark has put in to making his talk informative, interesting and at times entertaining about a subject, which is inestimably sad, profoundly emotional and truly horrific. It brings back to me the horror of it and of course, like millions of people around the world, I remember very clearly where I was and what I was doing as I watched, in disbelief, the aircraft smashing into the towers, the pentagon and the ground killing thousands almost instantly. Life is so unpredictable, live it to the full, don’t put off til tomorrow – do it today and enjoy it because it can be gone in the blink of an eye.
OK lecture over…. I stay to wander the site some more, and come across this one name:
I didn’t know him, but somewhere in our family tree we are related.. he could be the son or grandson of one of my cousins or indeed a descendant of a family member or members who fled the, (and I don’t call it famine), genocide of the potato blight, but it surely hits home that we have all been touched in some way by this atrocity.
Finally, a short piece of video.. this is the north pool;
Just after this I notice lots of people taking selfies standing beside the pools… smiling and grinning like idiots… sorry but I just think this is so wrong… don’t they realise its a bloody gravesite! Unbelievable, but sadly predictable… the me me generation just astounds me sometimes.
I see that it is now approaching 3pm and I definitely want to go to the Stonewall Inn so it’s time to move on. Back into the Oculus and down onto the PATH to catch a train to take me to catch another train to Christopher Street.
A short walk and I am outside the famous Inn… this is part of my history….
Across the street there is a small garden…
I have to say I’m not overly impressed with the statues… they look like paper mâché and the lesbians are rocking a butch/femme stereotype that doesn’t sit well with me, but hey ho at least it’s here.
Even the area is gay….
ish…. not a speck on the Castro in San Francisco, but again better than nothing. Should I go in to the Stonewall Inn for a drink? It’s getting late and I would prefer to do that at night-time as I expect it to be a bit more lively then.
It’s actually getting on for 4pm and I still have the unused Big Tour Bus ticket… better get going. I look on the map and there is a tour bus stop 5 or 6 blocks from here so I make my way there. By the time the bus rocks up, it’s started to rain again so I am about to sit inside, but the guide suggests I go on the top deck so I can see better, so I do. He gives me a set of earphones and a rain poncho… I think I am going to need it! I have missed half the tour and I think the last bus is at 6pm so I just have to make do with what I can see on this one.
So.. New York… it’s all about the architecture, isn’t it:
and a few things that tickled me…
There is a commentary by the tour guide that I have to say I eventually tuned out of because he was the most irritating man ever…. talking very fast and then suddenly bursting into song every few minutes… and he couldn’t sing… it was unbearable! So much so that eventually I took the earphones out and put my airbuds in to listen to music… he was just excruciating.
The tour was ok, despite the rain and broadway hits…. HA!
I get off the bus at the final stop and have a think what I want to do next. It is now 6pm and I haven’t eaten since this morning… am in desperate need of a coffee, although I did have one at Starbucks on Christopher Street, (they really are on every corner here).
I see I am near 5th Avenue and I definitely want to see the Flatiron building so I start walking. It is actually about 20-30 minutes walk, but that’s ok as I do want to have a good look around at ground level.
I pass some of the major sites, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Radio City Music Hall and some of the doorways on 5th Avenue have fabulous friezes above them.
At last I am approaching the Flatiron building… I speed up as it is now getting dark and I don’t want to leave NYC without a photograph of my favourite NY building.
I take one or two… to be on the safe side!
I also see a small park and a rather impressive building across the road.
Turns out that it’s Madison Square and I think this might be Madison Square Gardens, but I’m way too exhausted to find out.. there are some curious sculptures in the park too…
Not sure what that’s about either.
I really do have to eat… ahhhh there’s a Wagamama’s, oh yes please. I go in and hope I can get a seat.. yep I do and order my usual fare… Chicken Katsu Curry, am really looking forward to this.
Now why do I build my hopes up like that?? It comes, it’s very dry; there’s hardly any curry sauce and the woman who served me is quite surly, so I don’t bother to ask for more sauce, I just eat what I can… what a bloomin’ let down.
I leave the restaurant and am in two minds whether to return to the Stonewall Inn or not… I decide not, its now almost 10pm and I am really exhausted. I need to get back and do some packing as I have to be out of the apartment by 11am and then take the bike to an address in Elizabeth, NJ to drop it off for shipping.
I get back onto the PATH and book an Uber without incident… that’s nice for a change!