New York City: Ground Zero, The Village, and The Flatiron

It’s hard to write about Ground Zero.

Like most of you, I remember exactly where I was when I heard. Here at home, getting ready to take Sara Ann to school.

Elizabeth was already at school, as middle school started at 7:15. Jim was out of town — in Connecticut, actually — and my mom was staying with us, because I hated staying alone.

Mom was upstairs on the treadmill and I was in the den watching the Today Show. We both saw the first plane hit the tower at the same time — I heard her scream from upstairs.

I really didn’t want to take Sara Ann to school that day, but thought it would be better for her to keep a sense of normalcy. Which was fine, until I heard on the radio that another plane hit the Pentagon just after I dropped her off.

So, 12 years later, I’m standing in the shadow of those where those towers once stood.

Security is very tight while the Memorial is under construction. Almost like airport security. I’m told that it will be open to the public from all sides when the Memorial is complete.

Tight security
Tight security

When you are standing in line, you see these signs that remind you of the solemn nature of where you are. That the place where someone may have died is sacred ground. I needed no reminder.

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Now, we’re inside the Memorial site and I’m running my hands over the names etched into the railings on the north pool. In the very footprint of the buildings that fell. I cannot help but look up, far into the sky, where 12 years ago, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, realized there was no escape. Where first responders witnessed the horror and walked up the smoky stairs instead of scurrying down to safety. My mom talked about how she ran her hand over each of the names and prayed for the families. I thought that was fitting.

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Then she reminded me about the survivor tree, which was salvaged from the wreckage of the towers, nursed back to health and replanted on the grounds of the memorial. A living tribute to the fact that this city, this country, will mourn its losses, but it will ultimately survive.

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After some time, I sat down to rest my tired feet. As I looked up at the beautiful new tower under construction, I noticed that every few minutes, an airplane was reflected in the building’s exterior. It’s small, but you can see it if you look closely, and, for me, it was haunting.

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If you’re anywhere near New York, go see this. It’s moving and beautifully done, and the museum when completed, will be a poignant reminder of the day that changed our nation forever.

Ground Zero was heavy and emotional and rightly so. After our tour, we were hungry, so my mom suggested we eat lunch at the Essex House, a small deli that served as a medical station in the wake of the attacks. They still have the spray-painted sign on the wall, and it was a fitting way to honor this establishment that was such an important part of the first responders’ efforts. And they make a darned good panini.

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This next part is going to sound weird. It certainly did to my mom. But, since I was 11 or 12, I’ve been obsessed with Simon and Garfunkel, which will come as a huge shock to those of you who know me.

So one of the things on my list was to go to Bleecker Street, which is the subject of a vintage Simon & Garfunkel song, one of my favorites. My mom had no clue why this was so important to me, but, bless her heart, was patient nonetheless as we made our way to Greenwich Village for the sole purpose of taking my picture in front of the street sign.

I suck at the Art of the Selfie, so I asked Mom to snap my photo. Apparently, she sucks at the art of the iPhone photo, as this is the one she snapped of me. But it’s ok. It is me and it is Bleecker Street.

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I decided while we were in the Village, we may as well see Washington Square Park, which is lovely. I confess here and now that I handed my mom’s iPhone (the battery on mine was long dead by this time) to a couple of total strangers and asked them to snap my photo.

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For our last night in New York, I had made reservations at Mesa Grill, a restaurant owned by noted TV chef Bobby Flay. It’s in the Flatiron District, a very trendy area which is, like most of Manhattan, expensive.

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Condos in the Flatiron District (5th Avenue @ 16th Street)

An emotional day; highs and lows. From the somber weightiness of Ground Zero to the thrill of something as simple as Bleecker Street and a phenomenal dinner. I didn’t want to go to sleep, as I knew when I woke it would be time to leave.

Tomorrow: My walk in the rain and Manhattan Miscellany.

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