Monday, June 18, 2007

Day 3 - Loooong and emotional - Posted by Lisa

In our last installment, Chris and I were about to take a tour of lower Manhattan on Sunday morning. Instead of boarding the bus anywhere nearby our hotel, however, Chris suggested we walk down Broadway (approximately 10 blocks?) to the Empire State Building to avoid the long lines for the bus in Times Square. The idea was to go to the observation deck there, then board the bus afterward. Great idea. Of course, it might have worked out better if his wife (ahem) didn't suddenly see the "Empire State Building" about a mile to the left somewhere around 42nd St, deciding "hey, why don't we just go this way?!"

Several loooong blocks, a stop at the ATM machine, a street fair, and an unplanned visit to Grand Central Station later...we suddenly lost said "Empire State Building" since the closer you get to a building in New York, the easier it gets lost behind the canyon of other tall buildings directly around you. Of course, then Chris pointed out another tall building with a spire on top and says "there it is," to which I say, "noooo, that's not it." Ummm, yes. It was. The building I had seen, and led us on a wild goose chase of, was the Chrysler Building!

So anyway, we finally make it to our destination, and take the one escalator, and two elevator rides to the 86th floor observation deck. Really cool. It definitely gave me a bit of vertigo, especially when I took this shot, but was definitely worth the trip. If you go, make sure you get your observation deck tickets before getting there though. In our case, our tickets were included with our bus tour package. It was nice to just go directly to the line for the elevator rather than getting in line for tickets first.

We then boarded the bus downtown that took us through the neighborhoods of (among others) Greenwich Village, Soho, Chinatown, Tribeca, then to the World Financial District and Battery Park, which sits at the southernmost tip of the island and looks out on the Statue of Liberty. We got off at the park, took a few pictures, and got some ice cream since it was getting quite hot. As I said yesterday, tourists cannot go up into the Statue of Liberty, so we did not bother with the boat trip over there. Bummer, since it was also closed in 1986, the last time I visited New York.

Per our tour guide's suggestion, we headed north on foot from Battery Park to the World Trade Center site. It was only a matter of a few blocks and took us through the financial district, probably one of (if not the) greatest concentrations of wealth in the world.

The absence of the two towers is noticeable even from a distance because of the impact they had on the New York skyline, but it was starting from about a block away that I personally felt the greatest sense of their loss. The nearby area is sunny now, and the midday heat was oppressive. A block away in front of St. Paul's Chapel, which still stands across the street from where the towers stood, I couldn't help but notice the backdrop of sun and sky behind the church. It's hard not to imagine the shadows those huge buildings must have cast, and how they must have towered over that church. Regardless of how one felt about the presence of those towers, the fact that they are missing now is such a ("sad" is such an inadequate word here) reminder of the unthinkable loss of precious lives that day.

Visiting the site itself (which is hard to see much of because of the fencing that is draped in most areas with fabric or fine mesh) was not quite as emotional for me as I had thought it would be, but moved me almost to tears nonetheless. I did in fact, wipe away tears as we walked away, but more than that I just felt quiet, reflective, and reverent. To me, that felt appropriate at the time. We took other pictures, but I personally made sure to take a picture of the name of the one person I (kind of) knew personally in those towers. Her name was Marni Pont O'Doherty, and I only "knew" her online, through her posts to a Rick Springfield fan bulletin board that I frequented. We never met personally, but she was clever, creative, and so funny in her posts. Her last post to the board was minutes before the first plane hit the north tower. She worked in the south tower, the second to be hit, first to fall. She had contacted family after the first plane hit to say that they were told to stay put, the tower was secure. She was never heard from again.