Sunday, September 25, 2011

New York: Manhattan and Ground Zero

New York City is a vibrant, happening place. Comprised of five sections called boroughs—Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island--the city is home to more than 8,300,000 people. Many more come into the city to work. With this glut of people in a relatively small space, mass transportation is required. If everyone who lived and worked in New York City drove a car, no one would get anywhere. Subways, buses, and PATH trains are some of the ways people get from place to place. Public transportation is cheap and efficient. A round-trip train ride from New Jersey to downtown Manhattan costs only $4. The blog posts about New York City will focus mostly on Manhattan, which is only a little more than thirteen miles long and two miles wide.

To get a flavor of what Manhattan is like, consider the photographs below. What do you see? Do you recognize anything? In one picture you can see the ball that is dropped from Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

As you walk around the streets of Manhattan, you realize how crowded it is. People are bustling everywhere, and it is easy to overhear many different languages. Sidewalk vendors sell food and try to interest tourists in buying tickets for city tours, books about New York, scarves, jewelry, perfume, toys, and other goods. One man stood in the street hawking bubble blowing machines for $5. "Just $5. Get one now!" he shouted to everyone who hurried past. 

It was obvious there were a lot of tourists dashing about because, like me, they often referred to maps and had cameras hanging around their necks. When you consider that New York has almost 50,000,000 visitors each year it is no wonder the city streets and sidewalks are crowded. In 2010 alone tourists spent more than 31.5 billion dollars in New York City.

Today I spent my time in two places—downtown (also called Lower Manhattan) and Midtown. When you think of downtown, there are two places that immediately spring to mind. One is Wall Street, the financial center of New York City and home to the stock exchanges, and the second is Ground Zero where the World Trade Centers collapsed after an attack on 9/11/2001. Midtown is where Times Square is. You probably have seen Times Square on television or in the movies. There are huge TV screens with ads, and on New Year’s Eve a ball is dropped to commemorate the beginning of a New Year. The theater district is also located in Midtown. Here you can see Broadway shows like The Lion King, Spiderman, or War Horse.

This morning I heard odd noises coming from the ground below my hotel window. I peeked outside and discovered The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run/Walk was in progress. I wondered who Stephen Siller was and did a quick Internet search to read about him. His story is sobering: "On September 11th, firefighter Stephen Siller had just gotten off the late shift at Squad 1, Park Slope, Brooklyn.  He was on his way to play golf with his brothers on that bright clear day when his scanner told of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers.  When he heard the news, he called his wife Sally to tell her he would be late because he had to help those in need.  He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear, then took his final heroic steps to the World Trade Center.  When Stephen drove his truck  to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, it was already closed to traffic . With sixty pounds of gear strapped to his back, he ran through the Tunnel, hoping  to meet up with his own company, Squad 1." [Source:] Sadly, along with 343 other firefighters, Siller lost his life that day. This walk/run is in honor of them.

Once in the city I went directly to Ground Zero. It was an extremely moving experience because I remember being downtown prior to 9/11 and marveling at The World Trade Center buildings. While there is construction going on to build new towers, it will take years before the work is complete. Then I went to the WTC Visitor Center a place where one can better understand the events of 9/11. Tears came to my eyes as I viewed the artifacts, some of which are pictured below.

This airplane window was recovered from the rubble.

More artifacts recovered from the site.

Seeing all these objects made the experience meaningful.

Firefighter's hat and coat

A piece of one of the towers

Part of an I-Beam
Images of those who were lost

Artwork by school children

A moving note left by a visitor

Paper cranes made by Japanese families as a wish for world peace
Outside, a makeshift memorial was attached to a fence at the construction site.

Trinity Church is located only three blocks from Ground Zero. On 9/11 as people were fleeing, many took refuge in this church to escape the huge debris cloud.

In the photographs below, you can see the construction in progress as new towers are being built.

An artist created this image to show what the new towers will look like when completed.
These photos show that we will never forget when our country was attacked.

 Selected Quotes from People Who Survived the 9/11 Attack:

"I left my office right way. I saw a security guard I greeted every morning and I asked him, "Nana, what's going on? He looked me in the eye and said, 'Run for your life.'"

"The elevator to 104 began to fall. Flames came in and I beat them out with my briefcase. A fireball came through the crack and burned my face. When the doors opened on 78, I found the stairs and made my way down, one step at a time."

"I always told my kids focus on the twin towers if you can't find your way home, that way you can never be lost."
An artist's rendition of what the finished World Trade Center Memorial will look like.
Israeli architect Michael Arad is the designer of the World Trade Center Memorial, entitled “Reflecting Absence.” Included in the memorial is a plaza that consists of two massive pools that will be set within the original footprints of the Twin Towers. Each nearly an acre in size the twin reflecting pools feature the largest man-made waterfalls in the United States. Bronze parapets inscribed with victims’ names surround the pools, and more than 400 trees will be planted. This includes the Peace Tree, which was found in the 9/11 rubble and then tenderly cared for until it recovered. It is hoped that the memorial will be open in 2012 in time for the eleventh anniversary.


Kelly said...

I recently learned about the Siller family when reading an article in Runner's World magazine. I can't imagine how moving and emotional this particular race must be.


Thanks for the shout out! :)