TIO NYC: See Forever And 9/11 Memorial

Freedom Tower

See Forever… Say that to anyone who has skied in Telluride, Colorado and he or she will instantly conjure a brilliant winter day on a ski run with 360° mountain views close at hand and continuing all the way out to Utah.

But that wasn’t our See Forever on Monday: instead, we saw all of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the New York Harbor, the New Jersey bank of the Hudson River, from the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to the George Washington Bridge. All this from the Observatory of the “tallest building in the Western Hemisphere”, One World Trade Center, aka Freedom Tower. The Observatory calls its mobile tour guide “See Forever.”

The past several days we have had the pleasure of showing Susan’s home town to new friends, three women from New Zealand, in New York City for the first time. In other posts, Susan has talked about other adventures in the Big Apple with Rowena, Robin, and Trish. Monday was all about the 9/11 Memorial and the beautiful new One World Trade Center that has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of the Twin Towers.

It’s a common cliche that we often by-pass important sites as too familiar until it comes time to show those sites to a visitor.

Certainly 9/11 was very personal to Susan and me: we were helping Susan’s parents move into their new apartment in Hackensack, NJ that glorious September morning in 2001, when her Aunt Connie called. “Turn on the television!” was all she could say.

My father-in-law and I had been out on the east-facing balcony, looking at the just beginning autumn colors to the northeast. Shifting our focus to the southeast, we first saw the smoke from the North Tower, already burning. We couldn’t see the buildings because of high-rise apartments between us and Lower Manhattan, but some minutes later the second plane hit the South Tower and the smoke almost immediately increased. Two days later we were able to see the destruction first hand, but in the intervening years we had not taken the opportunity to tour the Memorial and Museum, or to visit One World Trade.

Toward the Tower

A few nights before the Kiwi contingent arrived, we were having dinner with friends who had recently moved back to Manhattan from Telluride. Susan asked Gaspar, a high schooler, what he considered “don’t miss” for newcomers to New York. The complex at “Ground Zero” was at the top of the list. We listened, and made plans to take the New Zealanders to Ground Zero.

Even with the 9/11 Memorial completed and One World Trade Center in close proximity there is still a lot of construction going on in the immediate area- cranes in operation, trucks hauling materials into job sites, concrete barriers and chainlink fences keeping tourists and sightseers at bay, guards and construction workers helpfully directing newbies to narrow paths leading to the sites of interest. So there is a combination of clamorous building activity and hordes of sometimes confused gawkers lending the air of a gigantic circus to that region of Lower Manhattan.

Pool with Names

On the way to our ascent of One World Trade, we paused at the pool at the location of the North tower of the World Trade Center. Both the North and the South Tower sites are memorialized with these rectangular pools which occupy the footprint of the fallen buildings. The names of those who died in the attack, as well as the victims of the 1993 truck bomb attempt, are inscribed in the walls surrounding the pools, a poignant reminder of the tragedy that happened here.

A few minutes later our party was whisked to the Observatory of the 1776′ tower, a slide show on the glass of the elevator showing what the views would have been over the 400 years of European experience in what is now New York City. The time? 47 seconds to climb 102 floors!

Ladies at the Observatory

Once in the Observatory, our group spent over an hour mesmerized by the views on the blue-sky day. OK, there was some haze, but we had a good view up and down the Hudson River from the George Washington Bridge to the Verrazano Narrows. “Can we see where Sully landed in the Hudson?“Look, there’s the Statue of Liberty!” Where is Ellis Island?” “Is that the Empire State Building?” “Which is the Brooklyn Bridge?”

It was great to rediscover this magical, maddening, crazy city through the eyes of our friends, so good to be in this place of re-birth, high above the memories of tragedy.

Manhattan from Freedom Tower

Back on the ground, we had hotdogs and pretzels from one of the ubiquitous New York food carts, then spent not nearly enough time in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, with its burned firemen’s helmets, photos and messages inquiring about the fate of loved ones, twisted structural steel, repeating reels of news coverage of the moments after the first plane went into the North Tower… Overloaded sensations transporting us back to that beautiful, awful morning; feeling an overwhelming sadness that the horrors of that day have not led us all to a better place.

Inside the 9/11 Museum

Our guests were solicitous of our feelings, and we all left with heavy hearts. As for me, I was grateful for the support and friendship of people who had witnessed all these events from half a world away. One of our friends repeated the oft-heard sentiment: “The world changed that day.”

All photos by Clint Viebrock for Telluride Inside… and Out

 

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