Thursday, October 27, 2011

New York – Visiting the 9/11 Memorial

Ten years ago, on Friday 26 October, 2001 to be exact, I took a flight to New York City. A month before that, on September 12, 2001 my husband and I were booked on a flight to Paris but because of the events of the 11th all airports were closed and our trip was cancelled (you can read about it on my post here.) This is why ten years ago this month I was going to New York to show my support to the city. Earlier this month my husband and I went to New York again and visited the 9/11 Memorial. (Click on collages to enlarge photos and click again to see better.)

Free passes to view the 9/11 Memorial are given for a specific time and date and can be reserved up to six months in advance (a donation is requested.) I had read that passes to view the 9/11 Memorial had been completely booked through mid-November, but before we left I tried to reserve our passes on line. There was some available time on Tuesday 4th October, 2011 at 3:00 pm, and that was fine with us. I printed the passes which also gave directions to the site.

On that Tuesday we went to the area quite early and walked through the now famous Zuccotti Park – where the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations are taking place. We proceeded toward the 9/11 Memorial entry area. The Ground Zero Memorial and Museum are officially called the 9/11 Memorial and the 9/11 Memorial Museum. The Museum is still being built and will open in September 2012.

We waited in line for a short moment then followed a guide. We entered through a single security checkpoint and showed our Passes and identification papers, and again several times along the way. Security guards checked our bags also. We followed the guide along a blue fabric wall. On the other side of the wall is ongoing construction on the One World Trade Center building and another building. The site is fenced off. The 7 World Trade Center Building has been completed.

As we walked I took pictures of the constructions sites around us.

While waiting to go through another Security check point I watched tiles being brought up the skyscraper.

Then I took my Sony telephoto to photograph the workers installing the tiles – they were up quite high.

We were getting closer to the Memorial as I could see the Welcome sign and Memorial map.

Further on I could read Mayor R. Bloomberg’s Welcome Message (click on picture twice to enlarge.)

Then we were in the large tree-open plaza. This 8-acre plaza is eco-friendly (with storm water, pest management and irrigation to conserve water and energy.) The suspended paving system that supports the trees allows their roots to grow in the rich soil under a series of concrete tables. When completed the plaza will be planted with 442 swamp white oak trees (Quercus bicolor) which were picked because of their durability and leaf color. (The trees were selected from nurseries located in New York, Pennsylvania and near Washington DC to symbolize areas impacted on 9/11.)

People were walking around or sitting on stone benches. On one side of the plaza though you can still see the ongoing construction going on behind the fence.

My husband took a picture of me while I photographed the panel giving information on the names on the Memorial.

As we were getting closer to the pools we could hear the sound of water – the same cascading sound as waterfalls make. It was an overcast day and it started to rain. It did not last long.

The 9/11 Memorial was dedicated on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I watched the dedication on television and at the time did not know that I would be able to obtain tickets to visit the site. Below are some of the pictures I took from my TV on the 11th of September 2011.

Approximately half of the 16-acre site is occupied by the 9/11 Memorial. It is located where the former World Trade Center complex stood. Set within the footprints of the original twin towers are now two enormous reflecting pools and waterfalls. The pools are best seen from above I am sure, but I was at street level. I found some aerial renderings of the pools on the Net, showing both of them and how the area will look when totally completed.

The Memorial was designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker. Their design was selected from a global competition that received 5,201 submissions from 63 countries. The reflecting pools are the center of the Memorial. The pools, which are the exact footprints of the Twin Towers, are like empty voids meant to be a visible reminder of the absence of the towers. As I approached one pool the sound of the waterfall was drowning out the noise of the construction sites. The sight of the immense pool was quite moving. I took many photos (over 280.)

Each granite pool (one for each fallen Tower) is impressive. First of all you have to be there to really see how big they are as it is not the same when looking at a film or picture – each is about one acre. The waterfall is hypnotizing. The water goes down 30 feet. They are the largest man made waterfalls in America – 660,000 gallons of water re-circulating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Arad, the architect of the pool said “I think what I wanted to do here is really encourage that moment of introspection and to bring people to the very edge of these enormous voids and reflect on what happened here that day.

He added “I think that these reflections are going to be very personal in nature.”

We walked around each pool reading the names as we went by. The bronze panels around the pools are etched with 2,983 names - every single person who died on September 11, as well as the six terror victims from the attack on the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993. The names are organized in groups according to the locations in which the 9/11 victims died.

The bronze parapets mounted above the channels feeding the waterfalls invite you to come closer and read the names. I read that the families of the victims were pleased to see the names of their loves one so they would not be forgotten. I noticed several Armenian names, of course. In the above collage are the names of Edward Mardikian, 29, Sales Manager, Ohio State University graduate. His family has funded The Peter E. Mardikian Scholarship Fund at OSU. Aram Iskenderian, 41, Vice President at Cantor Fitzgerald. Garo Voskerijian, 43, born in Cairo and lived in Long Island. Alysia Basmajian, 24, Accountant at Cantor Fitzgerald. Carl Bedigian, 35, from Queens, NY. He was off-duty on 9/11 but went to save people because he was a NYC firefighter. As I read the names I looked over the edge of the bronze panel and gazed at the water in the pool reflecting the sky and heard the weeping waterfall in the background – it was very touching and poignant.

Some relative or friends of victims were making paper rubbing of names with pencils or crayons. I helped one of the ladies holding the paper while she traced over a name of a lost friend. She told me that the rubbing of his name was intended for her church of which he had been a member.

There is an electronic Memorial Guide which indicates where the names are located.

A volunteer guide told us that at night when the waterfalls are illuminated the bronze plates are lighted from beneath and each names glows as people walk by. The architect, Arad, designed two 30-foot square openings in the bottom of the pools. From the plaza level the bottoms of these inner openings are not visible. You can only see the top of the dark openings where light and water are flowing into infinite darkness.

As we walked from the North Pool to the South Pool I looked inside the unfinished 9/11 Memorial Museum. The Museum entry pavilion was designed by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta. They designed a low, obliquely horizontal building that can be seen from all directions. It is made of glass panels glittering in the light and going well with the Memorial pools. I understand that when finished the Museum will have exhibitions honoring the victims of the attacks and their portraits. Alice M. Greenwald, the Museum Director, says “The exhibition will also explore the background leading up to the events, and examine their aftermath and continuing implications.” I joined a group of people who was peering inside and I could distinguish large steel columns – they are from the original World Trade Center.

We strolled around the Memorial pools and plaza for a while and then to the exit along the long blue wall. People were taking pictures of the constructions sites through little openings in the wall. My husband was one of them. The picture he took is below, on the lower right hand side.

We were supposed to start our tour by going to the 9/11 Memorial Visitor Center, but we spent our time at the “Occupy Wall Street” park. We ended our visit at the visitor center. Admission is free. They have genuine artifacts and rotating exhibits. As we entered we saw a large TV screen at the end of the room showing scenes from the 9/11 attacks and renderings of the finished new World Trade Center complex.

There is also a Museum shop where books, DVDs, apparel and assorted souvenirs can be purchased. They state that all net proceeds are dedicated to developing and sustaining the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I purchased several postcards – here is one below. It is called “Forever Tall” (Psaris Productions.)

When completed in late 2013 the new One World Trade Center will contain 3.1 million square feet of office space. There will be 55,000 square feet of retail and the tower will include a two-level observation deck at 1,362 feet (415 m) with a glass parapet extending to 1,368 feet (417 m) which was the heights of the original Twin Towers. A spire extending 408 feet above the roof parapet will make the building 1,776 feet tall (as a tribute to the year the United States Declaration of Independence was signed.) Soaring to 104 floors it will be the tallest building in Manhattan. Below is a photo showing One WTC at dawn followed by a computer rendering of the completed One World Trade Center (courtesy Wikipedia.)

Before leaving, I took some last photographs of the shimmering glass curtain of the skyscraper.

The 9/11 Memorial is a fitting tribute to the people who died on that day. I feel that it has captured the emotion of sorrow, remembrance but also affirmations of life and rebirth. Arad, the Memorial architect said: “We wanted to create a place that remarked on absence but also did so in a way that connected the site back into the life of the city.” It is such a place.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Apple Festival in Ellijay

Last week-end was a perfect autumn day. It was in the mid 70's (24 C) with low humidity and a slight wind. On Sunday we decided to drive to the North Georgia Mountains as it was the last day of the Georgia Apple Festival in Ellijay. The day was so perfect that I decided to switch my topic and publish a post on this gorgeous day immediately – I’ll have another New York post next week. Ellijay - population approx. 1600 - the county seat of Gilmer County is about 58 miles north of our house and 25 miles south of the North Carolina state line. (click on pictures and collages to enlarge, then click again on each picture.)

Ellijay is known as the “Apple Capital of Georgia.” This year was the 40th anniversary of the festival. There were more than 300 vendors in a large field with handmade crafts, food booths and apples of course. A big (half) inflated cruise ship called “The Titanic Ride” had a long line of children waiting to go up on its deck. Then they would slide down with peals of laughter.

A gated area was reserved for animal rides – not ponies, but camels (yes, in North Georgia!)

A little girl was watching them intently. As soon as they would walk by her she jumped up and down and giggled.

The camels just walked slowly by, then would go for some food and a rest.

North Georgia chainsaw artist, Mal McEwen (who said his family roots in the area dates back to 1746) was demonstrating how he worked with his chainsaw. We looked for a while.

Here are some of his carvings -

My husband especially liked and admired ducks and Canada Geese carved and exhibited by a wood sculptor.

Then we went towards some bluegrass music we could hear close by. A group of “cloggers” were enthusiastically dancing on the stage.

Wikipedia says: “Clogging is a type of folk dance with roots in traditional European dancing, early African-American dance, and traditional Cherokee dance in which the dancer's footwear is used musically by striking the heel, the toe, or both in unison against a floor or each other to create audible percussive rhythms. Clogging was a social dance in the Appalachian Mountains as early as the 18th century.“ It is fun to watch. There was also a good variety of apples for sale.

It was still early afternoon so we decided to take a ride to the mountains. We were in Ellijay last June, but it was on a sad occasion. One of my co-workers, Woody, retired the same month as I did (January 1, 2008.) He had worked in our company for over 30 years. He and his wife lived in Ellijay. They attended their 50th high school reunion there on Memorial Day week-end. A former classmate flew from Ohio in his single-engine aircraft, a white Beechcraft 35 “Bonanza.” As a door prize at the reunion he offered a sightseeing flight over the mountains. My friend Woody, his wife and another friend won the door prize. The plane took off but did not come back. They found the wreckage in the Rich Mountain Wilderness Area, 3 days later, as there are no roads going into it. We went to the funeral in Ellijay. Below is a picture showing part of this extremely rugged and remote area of Gilmer County.

Last Sunday, before driving to the mountains we drove through the center of town. As we drove by my husband saw a booth with old books for sale, so we stopped.

The town was celebrating “Apple Arts on the Square.”

We tasted some of the apples and I bought some home-made root beer in a blue bottle, which I kept.

Many pumpkins were displayed ready for the upcoming Halloween celebration.

From the Square we took State Route 52 going toward Fort Mountain State Park. This is a scenic drive through the Appalachian Mountains. The Cherokee originally lived in these mountains and called them Sah-ka-na'-ga - "The Great Blue Hills of God."

The Cherokee people were indigenous to this North Georgia area. For a while, both white settlers and Indians occupied Ellijay. After the forced removal of the Cherokees (see my post on this here) in 1838 most of the mountain land was awarded to white settlers in 40 to 160-acre tracts. The rest was left forested. These forests inspired a national forest movement seeking to preserve them. One of the first acquisitions of the United States was Georgia mountain land which later became the Chattahoochee National Forest - 750,000 acres (3,000 km2.) We stopped at a trail-head where a kiosk gives information on the area.

There was a look-out there with mountain views and beautiful red foliage in the foreground.

At first the road raises gradually, but then there are dramatic climbs and sharp curves. We stopped again at a pull-off on the road and walked on a small trail. Rocks had been placed to use as stairs and then we arrived at the top of a hill. The hike was certainly worthwhile.

Then I rested on a small wall in the shade.

The wall was made of large pieces of slate.

I walked around to the other side of the hill, which receives more sun. The foliage was more advanced and golden.

We walked down the trail to our car.

After we drove up hill for more than a thousand feet we arrived at the entrance of Fort Mountain State Park. It is a large park - 3,712 acre (15.02 km²) - with a lake (which we did not find) picnic areas, camping, trails, and streams. We drove inside the park and parked close to a trail head leading to an overlook. Time to hike up another trail…

At first the trail was nice and smooth

but then huge rocks appeared on the mountains and small ones on the trail too. With my bad knees I was walking slowly, but kept going expecting a beautiful view.

When we saw some stairs we knew we were getting close

Arriving at the top of the stairs and onto the platform felt like being in an airplane and looking down.

This was breathtaking scenery to be sure. We could see lakes and little houses below, as well as roads.

Looking to the right or to the left, the view was stunning.

My photos do not do justice to the raw beauty that is there. To be at the top of this mountain is such an experience, it is spectacular. You feel like a bird looking down.

On the way back home we stopped at a roadside orchard. There were many delicious looking items for sale in addition to the fresh crop of apples.

We reached home as the sun was setting. We were too tired to eat our “fried apple pies.” Next morning though I took a picture of the pies then went outside to take a picture of the two kinds of apples we bought – the Cameo and the Pink Lady. I did buy a mystery at the Ellijay book sale – just for its title “Red Delicious Death.”

It was a pleasure taking these photos outside near our “forest” of a garden. It has been so warm that our azalea bush is blooming again. The flowers in the planters are still showing color and a lovely rose just opened. The leaves of our hardwood trees are gradually getting more golden – autumn shows the beauty of nature so well.

As I eat an apple near my computer I can watch the yellowing leaves from the window.

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