Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Tragically Tasteful Memorial

Greetings from... JFK Airport.

I am writing this as I have dinner before my 9:30pm flight to Rio.

As scheduled, I flew into Newark this morning. It was a really smooth flight until the end when high winds in the New York area caused the plane to wobble considerably upon descent. But the pilot stuck the landing and I offered my compliments and appreciation upon deplaning.

I had prepaid for an NYC Airporter bus that I thought would take me direct from Newark to JFK. But in finding the right bus I learned that one bus would take me to the Port Authority bus terminal in Manhattan, from where another one would take me JFK (as part of the same fee).

Upon the first bus I tried to ascertain if there was somewhere at Port Authority or nearby that I could leave my suitcase for the afternoon, so I could wander around Manhattan--and/or catch a Broadway matinee--before continuing on to JFK.

No such luck.

But even after getting to JFK around 2:30 and checking my bag, I decided to take the AirTrain + subway back to lower Manhattan to see the 9/11 Memorial.

It was bitterly cold outside but I'm glad I made the effort. 

Due primarily to where I exited the subway at Fulton Street, I first explore St. Paul's Church, a historic 18th century structure that miraculously survived 9/11 intact and played a key role in supporting rescue efforts.

I took several pictures of the new--but as yet not open to the public--Freedom Tower. 

And though the 9/11 Memorial Museum isn't slated to open until late May, the memorial itself--essentially the footprints of the two towers turned into subtly cascading fountains with names of the victims engraved on the surrounding ledges--is open and free. (My online reservation incurred a $2 surcharge, but likely saved me at least a half-hour of waiting, though getting through security--akin to an airport's--took a good while.)

Obviously, anyone old enough to remember the horrible events of that September morning will never forget them. 

I did not know anyone who was killed or hurt on--or directly survived--9/11, nor anyone who knew someone who had. So millions of people were much more acutely affected than I, including anyone who had seen what took place in person.

But when the towers fell, I clearly remembered going into them and to the observation deck just a few years before, and the preceding June I had taken a sightseeing boat tour that allowed me to take many great pictures of the World Trade Center. 

Oddly, I had also visited Washington, DC and Pittsburgh in the months prior to 9/11, so all of the tragedy sites really registered with me.

I also remember how the next time I was in New York--but truly on all subsequent trips there--how staggering it was not to see the towers where they once stood.

So despite a really cold day--and I assure you I wasn't dressed for Rio--I'm glad I was able to spend some time at the memorial. And to feel a bit of personal discomfort was probably appropriate.

Because of the high winds, the North Tower basin had its fountains turned off, which actually made it even more serene and somber.

Things will continue to evolve near the memorial site for months and years to come, opening of the museum, blossoming of trees and ongoing work on a nearby transportation hub.

But as it stands, the 9/11 Memorial seems beautifully low key and quite moving in its simplicity.

I can't wait to explore Rio and Buenos Aires, but it's likely I won't see anywhere on this trip that affects me more.

But the next time I'm outside, it should be about 80°--and that's a good thing.

I have put a few pictures up on

That'll do it for now; after a nice dinner and the chance to charge my phone, I've got a plane to catch.

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