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.

27 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

This is a beautiful and very moving post. Thank you.

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

Thoughtful post, thank you

Christine said...

Thank you for sharing.

Rhodesia said...

A wonderful post full of memories both good and sad.
Keep safe and stay well Diane

DJan said...

A beautiful post about a terrible time in the history of our nation. I do hope you will be able to visit again next year. This pandemic is really scary, but nowhere near as scary as when the Towers fell. Thank you, dear friend, for such a beautiful tribute.

Divers and Sundry said...

20 years gone, but in many ways it feels like yesterday. I imagine more so for you since you have such a personal connection.

Mary said...

As always, you have written such a wonderful, detailed post bringing back memories of such a sad time - but one we should never forget and pray never happens again. I thank you. The photos are amazing, Bob and have just viewed them all close up - the fourth from the bottom shows the AIG building on the far right where his company held his retirement party (2006) on the top level, a great tribute to his 53 years of service!

Like you, we've not been able to travel overseas since the start of the pandemic - it's really hard not being able to go home to see aging family and friends in the UK and France. We just cancelled again for the third time - a scheduled trip for this month but too many negatives still - and are now planning for next year, fingers crossed as we're aging fast too!

Stay well and safe dear, hope autumn will be enjoyable for us all despite having to stay close to home. I'm anxious for cooler weather after this hot, dry summer. Next month will be 59 years here for me - we came about the same time didn't we?
Hugs - Mary



David said...

Hi Vagabonde, We will never forget 9/11 either. However, I am concerned that young folks in the USA are disconnected from the attack and unfortunately, many Americans seem to have a short memory. I haven't been to NYC in many years now...too many people, too crowded and too expensive. I sure do miss Broadway, Times Square and the cuisine. I'd love to have a nice hot pastrami sandwich (wet)! One positive is that our oldest grandson is a Junior at NYU so he's experiencing the city...and so is his immediate family as they take him to school and spend a few days in NY every year. Your post is a nice tribute... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Susan Heather said...

A lovely post about a tragic event that we will never forget. (It is also my new husband's birthday).

Mae Travels said...

You have made the losses — big and small — so memorable. Your thoughts are far more poignant than the memorials and testimonials in the news media!

best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Kitchen Riffs said...

Really excellent post, and some gorgeous pictures. Thanks.

DUTA said...

You look lovely with that fur hat!

Your post is a fine, subjective account of the 9/11 tragedy!
The two blue light beams representing the twin towers, and the Oculus building designed to symbolize a dove released from a child's hand - are great, moving ideas!

bill burke said...

A beautifully written post, thank you!

David M. Gascoigne, said...

A lovely piece of writing, expressing your feelings so well. This is the day that changed the world, and we will never be able to regain what has been lost. The greatest irony of all, it seems to me, is the fact that Afghanistan has been handed back to the Taliban, the very enemy it was deemed necessary to destroy. I think we have barely finished chapter one in this saga, and there is more to come.

Vicki Lane said...

Such a fine post--full of memories and wonderful pictures. So moving--thank you for putting it all together, Vagabonde.

Kay said...

This is such a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it with us. I see photos we took with the kids decades ago with the Twin Towers in the background. Now, whenever I see those photos, it makes me sad.

Nadezda said...

Vagabonde,
You described the terrible events of 2011. Your memories are so touching and you are so interesting in describing your trip to New York in 2011 and souvenirs. I, too, will never forget that day of September 11th. I was sitting in a cafe and suddenly they began to show on TV how the planes crash into the towers. The first thought was: this cannot be.
This should not happen again.

Roderick Robinson said...

There is nothing I can usefully add to your admirable impressions of 9/11. Instead I've added a comment to your preceding post about the TdF. An event that has all the pleasurable associations of, say, Christmas, plus outdoor gaiety and warmer weather.

Nance said...

This is a thoughtful memoir beautifully expressed.

In the days following the September 11 tragedy, I remember being so touched and moved by the actions of people all across the globe. So many individuals and groups showed Unity and Kindness. My heart was full and encouraged. I felt Hope in spite of all of the destruction and devastation.

DeniseinVA said...

I have only been to Paris once in my life, back in 2014, and it was such a memorable and happy experience. The city was beautiful and all these iconic sights to see with my own eyes, absolutely magical. I have never truly explored New York but hope to one day. I remember a car tour around the city and driving by the World Trade Center years before that horror. Looking up at all those high skyscrapers was quite an experience, especially as I came from a small village in England originally. However, that day I spent looking at all the horror of September 11th on my TV, is permanently etched into my brain. It is hard to believe that it was 20 years ago as in some ways it seems like only yesterday. The description of the way it was on your trip in October, mesmerizing! An eloquent read and very poignant. Also wonderfully illustrated with photos and prints, beautifully written and a great tribute to both cities, Paris and New York.

Bohemian said...

You having experienced so much of this firsthand must have been very deep emotionally. It is hard to even watch the TV Memorial Series with live footage, even after all these Years later. My Parents were stationed in France in the 1960's when there were still American Military Bases there. According to them I spoke French fluently as a Child, Five languages in fact since we traveled abroad often, but apparently I forgot it when not using it after we remained Stateside a long time. Oddly, when I buy any French Decor Magazines tho' I can read some of it, must be somewhere in the far recesses of my subconscious perhaps? *LOL* My Family did Love living in France and a few of my Mom's French Friends were also married to American Servicemen. Dad met Mom while stationed in her Country, she was Welsh and they used to have Bases there too, but don't now. Mom's one poignant Memory of France was the Algerians that came Door to Door Selling wares, they always wanted to take her to the Casbah even tho' she was Married with Children. *LOL* The French Gitan Gypsies also came around, Mom's heritage has some Welsh Didi Kai so she bonded with many of them and understood the Culture and ways. I Wish I had Memories of France, but I was too Young to recall much.

Dee said...

Dear Vagabonde, thank you, once again, for sharing. Your details are personal ones that truly bring home to me the loss and the poignancy of the anniversary. Seldom do the journalists and newscasters and all those who, ever September 11th, recall what happened provide this kind of intimacy for us. Your eye is true and your heart tender. Peace.

PS: I so hope you get back to New York next year.

Marie-Anne said...


Un post très touchant, chère Vagabonde, sur cette tragédie que personne ne peut oublier. J'avais visité le WTC avec mon fils exactement un an avant, le 10 Septembre 2000 au retour d'un congrès de Presse à Boston. Nous avons fait tellement de photos et avons acheté des T-shirts avec les deux tours, que nous avons toujours! J'espère avoir la chance de retourner un jour à New York pour pouvoir visiter tous ces nouveaux momuments!

mjskit said...

What an interesting read. Your annual travel trips sound a lot like ours used to be when both our parents were alive. Never got to go to Paris though. :) You're right that everyone probably has a story to tell about Sept 11, but I can't imagine the stories of those in New York. Thanks for sharing this and all of the pictures. It was good to see the pictures of New York today. Oh - and I love the hat!

Jeanie said...

What a beautifully illustrated and written post, VB. I don't think anyone who was of an age then will ever forget where they were, when they heard, what they did on 9/11. This year, our up-north neighbor was explaining to her seven-year-old nephew why people were talking about 9/11, what it was and what happened. It really dawned on me at that moment that there is a whole generation, maybe two or so, that weren't around when that happened, just as I wasn't around for Pearl Harbor. I loved hearing about your visits to your mom and seeing the photos of you as well.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

That was such a good read Vagabonde -- a sad story so well told. You are right of course we all have visions of what we saw on our screens that day imprinted forever in our memories (just as we will about what happened this year on January 6). But your story personalizes what happened to the City of New York ...we lived in the Pacific Northwest then (and now) and do not personally know anyone who is as familiar with it as you are.

claude said...

Bonjour Vagabonde !
Magnifique publication !
Moi aussi j'ai toujours sur le porte de mon frigo américain la magnet des Tours que tu m'as envoyé un jour.
De ce fait, je ne peux oublier ce qui s'est passé ce 11 septembre là.
J'espère que tu vas bien et je t'embrasse.

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