Wednesday, September 8, 2021

New York City, Sep-Oct 2001 and later

After my father died in the mid-1970s I started to visit my mother in Paris, France, more often. (He had been badly injured in a head-on collision with a drunk driver.) I usually would travel in March and September for a couple of weeks during the off-peak seasons because Paris, being a very touristy city, the airfares were expensive and the low fares difficult to obtain in summer. Going home was to keep company to my mother who had Parkinson's disease and to help with the purchases that she needed. But while I ran errands in Paris I could still visit the big department stores, eat in a favorite small restaurant, catch a new exhibition in a museum or find some books in second-hand bookstores or at the "bouquinistes" along the river Seine.
My husband would rarely come with me because my mother did not speak English and I spent most of my time with her. Instead his vacations were often in the fall for ducks and Canada geese hunting. He would drive non-stop from Atlanta to either North Dakota or Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, with his cousin. But my late husband and I would take small vacations, no longer than a week or so, in various southern cities such as Savannah, GA, Charleston, SC, and Key West, Florida, or to my favorite cities New Orleans and New York.
While in New York we would buy books at The Strand Bookstore and other second-hand bookstores. We would try to see an opera or a show, visit a museum and walk in Central Park. One year, I believe it was in January 2000, it was so cold that I was happy to find a furry hat in a flea market and was warm walking in Central Park in the snow. I had my film camera then so the photos are average.
We went to the World Trade Center a couple of times but did not go up to the top observation deck as there were too many people waiting in line to go up. We thought we would do it next time we were in the city. We just walked into the lobby and gift shop and I would buy postcards, of course - I have some from the late 1970s to 2000 and beyond. In the 1980s I even bought a 6 postcard set ot the Twin Towers.(Click to enlarge.)
For my September 2001 trip to Paris my late husband was going to accompany me because we were going to stop in London and do some traveling. We were to fly out on Wednesday September 12, 2001. I was going to leave the office at noon on September 11 to go home and finish packing. But of course we never left on our trip. I wrote about it in my post of September 10,2011 "A cancelled trip" - you can read or reread it here. -- Paintings in heading is The Ferries, 1905, by Colin Campbell Cooper, American, 1856-1937. Below is The Flatiron Building in 1919, New York, by Samuel Halpert, American born in Bialystok Russia, 1884-1930, followed by Central Park, 1940, by Frank Moratz, American born in Germany, 1912-1990.
No one will forget watching the horrifying tragedy of the destruction of the WTC Twin Towers that day on TV. After the Government encouraged us to travel to New York to show support, stay a few days, go to a show, eat in restaurants - I did just that. I flew to New York on October 26, 2001. I still remember the dust around Ground Zero - I had a cough all the time I was in the city. Near the site, also referred to as "The Pile," people were watching silently as the large trucks moved steel beams away. I could see Ground Zero from a street close by. A worker came and sat near me, he was exhausted.
Looking at the pictures of the missing pasted on the walls was heart wrenching. There were still flowers and mementos on walls and in front of fire stations. A chaplain, two paramedics and 341 New York City firefighters lost their lives on 9/11 as well as 72 emergency workers from the city - there were 2977 victims in all. Now up to 75% of those who worked among the toxic Ground Zero rubble have some type of long-term illness. The NYC firefighters and first responders saved 20,000 people from the Twin Towers that day.
We went almost every year to New York City after that until 2014. In October 2011, ten years after the attack, we visited the 9/11 Memorial when it opened. It was not quite finished then. I wrote a report on it in my post "New York - visiting the 9/11 Memorial" - you can read or reread it here. I had a new digital camera by then.
The 9/11 Memorial reflecting pools are located in the exact footprints of the Twin Towers. The memorial has been sensitively designed. It is a somber experience to see and read the names of the victims inscribed in bronze on the railings of the memorial pools and hear water cascading down into the recessing pools; it brings peace and reflection. (They are the largest man-made waterfalls in the United States.) September 11, 2001, was a particularly tragic day for the United States. This understated memorial is a fitting tribute honoring the victims who perished on this day.
My late husband and I usually visited New York City in September and after 2001 we would see the "Tribute of Light" - two blue beams of light projected over the city each year from sunset on September 11 to dawn on the 12th. These twin lights represent the original Twin Towers and echo the orientation and shape of those towers.
In the new WTC complex the 104 floor tower also known as One World Trade, One WTC and Freedom Tower was completed in 2013 when the spire installed on the top gave the tower a total height of 1,776 feet (541 m) in reference to the US Declaration of Independence in 1776. It is the main building in the rebuilt WTC complex and is the tallest building in the US. The One World Observatory opened in May 2015. We had planned to go that year and for sure wait in line to ascend to this observation deck. Unfortunately my husband's Alzheimer's disease had progressed and we could no longer travel. (Photo courtesy One WTC.)
In September 2020, my eldest daughter and I had planned to go to New York to celebrate her September birthday but had to cancel because of COVID-19, instead we thought we'd go in September 2021. Now, because of the Delta variant we have decided not to travel there again. I read about the rebuilt World Trade Center complex on the Internet. The 9/11 Memorial museum has been finished. The Oculus building was opened in 2016 as a shopping mall and as the WTC transportation hub in Lower Manhattan providing access to commuter trains and subway lines. It was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to symbolize a dove released from a child's hand. The 335 foot long skylight allows light to shine overhead and the sun to move across its axis exactly on Septembr 11. (Photo courtesy CBS.)
The New World Trade Center has several more buildings being built. It will be complete when the 900-feet (270 m) tall 5 World Trade Center skyscraper is finished in 2028. I hope we can travel back to New York next year, maybe. I still have my little souvenir keychain that I bought there (benefitting the NYC Firefighters) and the little WTC Memorial magnet.
I see both daily, one on my refrigerator door and the other to hold my garden gate key. But as everyone, I don't need these mementos to remember. The harrowing pictures of 9/11 cannot be erased. The new World Trade Center complex with its graceful and strong buildings reaching towards the sky, the sun and the light renews our hope. I also hope it renews a national purpose for unity within our diverse society and a purpose to stay committed to our common good.
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