In February, we heard that Ringling Brothers Circus was closing their operation in May. We looked at their schedule and all their performances were on the East Coast of the United States, with the last week being on Long Island, New York. Wehadn’t been to New York City since 2000 so this was a good excuse to go. We booked the circus tickets, used our Southwest reward points for the flight, and found a fairly inexpensive hotel in Queens. We had 3 1/2 days to explore New York and 1 day at the circus.
We had an early morning flight, so late Monday night we drove the four hours to the Salt Lake City airport to catch our 6 am flight. We landed in New York City around 5 pm ET on Tuesday evening after a layover in Chicago.
After riding the free airport shuttle to our hotel, the Fairfield Inn, we walked a few blocks to a nice corner Italian restaurant. It was delicious and not very expensive. Jerie and Jade are smiling, because we were actually eating real food, not just peanuts and pretzels on the plane. It is where the neighbor residents eat and we loved hearing them say, “How you doin”.
On the walk back to the hotel, we enjoyed the neighborhood. We don’t live in an area with lots of apartments and row houses, so it was interesting to look at the architecture and even the neighborhood fire alarm.
For Wednesday, we had booked an afternoon tour of the 911 Memorial, with tickets to the 911 Museum, and One World Observatory. First, we had to navigate the New York subway. The hotel had a free shuttle that dropped us off at the subway station. Buying the tickets is always the hardest part. The information booth, suggested a pass that we could all use. If we needed to add money for future trips we could. The pass was good for 3 trips for the 4 our us. Nice that we only had to keep track of one pass.
Our tour met at St. Paul’s Chapel. We were a bit early so we walked the neighborhood and looked at the different buildings.
We walked past City Hall. There was a park next to it, where we had the obligatory hotdog from a street vendor.
We met our tour guide, Daniel. He gave us a bit of history about St. Paul’s church. It was built from 1764-1766. It’s spire was added from 1794-1796. It is the only colonial church in NYC still in existence. The inside is very interesting.
We walked to the back courtyard of the church where Daniel set the stage for the events of the morning of 9/11/2001.
The twin towers were built in the late 1960s. New Yorkers thought they were ugly. The were built to be the United Nations of Commerce. The complex consisted of 7 buildings, with an estimated 200,000 people entering the buildings on any given day. The complex of buildings even had it’s own zip code. The North Tower had 110 stories, with approximately 1 acre of area per floor. The morning of September 11th, there were 17,000 people who had already entered the buildings.
8:46am American Airlines Flight 11 hits the North Tower
9:03am Flight 175 hits the South Tower.
9:23am Manhattan is shut down and sealed off. All available fireman and policeman are ordered to the World Trade Center Complex
It is estimated that 2 billion people world-wide were watching the tragedy unfold on TV.
9:59am The South Tower fell due to the damage and fire from the airplane crash. It fell straight down
10:28 am The North Tower fell in a similar fashion, straight down. The pile of debris from both buildings was 16 stories tall.
There were 343 fire fighters killed. Over 6000 serious injuries. 90% of the civilian deaths occurred from people at or above the impact zone in each building.
Building #7 collapsed on September 14th, the other 4 buildings were demolished due to extensive damage.
St. Paul’s Church was spared heavy damage when the World Trade Center towers collapsed. It only had one broken window pane. It is believed that a 251 year old Sycamore tree saved the church. The debris blast from the falling towers, caused the tree to be thrown against the church and created a barrier. The church’s iron fence became a temporary memorial for those who lost friends and relatives.
We walked towards the memorial, which is only a short distance from the church and stopped at the new Oculus. This serves as the centerpiece of the World Trade Center transportation hub. It was designed to look like a dove. It longest spire or wing segment is 200 feet. It cost 4 billion to build and includes a sophisticated escape route system.
The 911 Memorial was designed by Michael Arad, an Israeli-American architect, who won the design contest in 2004. The memorial is designed with the theme, “Reflecting Absence”.
There are 2 waterfalls, each placed in the footprint(foundation) of each tower. They are the largest man-made waterfalls in North America. The small streams of water cascading over the edge represent the lives lost.
There are plaques placed around the top edge of the waterfalls. They include the names of everyone who died at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the flight that went down in Pennsylvania, as well as those in the 1993 bombing. In each section, the names are arranged so that friends or relatives or business associates are next to each other. It was felt that alphabetically order was too impersonal.
So that we will never forget those that died, the 911 commission, places a white rose on a person’s name on their birthday.
The first person to die on that day was a man named Daniel Lewin. He was seated in seat 9B on Flight 11. Due to his training in the Israeli Special Force, it is thought that he over-heard the hijackers talking, understood their plans and confronted them.
Across the street from the memorial is the station for Ladder Engine Company 10. There were 6 firefighters on duty that day, they all died when the towers collasped. Across the street from the engine company is St.Nicholas Greek Orthodox. It is the only church destroyed in the disaster and it is in the process of being re-built.
We then sat on the plaza, where Daniel told us of his experience as a NYU student on 9/11. The cell phone infrastructure for New York was in the North Tower, so when it collapsed the cell service became very spotty. This caused great confusion amongst people trying to find friends and relatives. Daniel was on Canal Street watching the towers after they were hit by the airplanes. He said that a delivery truck had stopped and had turned up his radio so that people could hear the news reports. He said that when the first tower collasped, there was absolute panic. People didn’t know what to do, many just stood staring, some cried, others screamed. NYU students were asked to go to St. Vincents hospital to give blood. Within 1/2 an hour, the line was 2 hours long.
The sky was filled with military planes and land line phone service was very slow. He was able to speak with his Dad for a moment to tell him he was okay.
The fires in the debris burned for 99 days. St. Paul’s church became a sanctuary for the rescue workers and later the construction workers who were removing debris, to take a break during their 12 hour shifts. There were counselors on duty at the church, 24 hours a day during the clean-up process. It took 8 months to clear the area.
We sat near what is known as the survivor tree. It is a Pear tree that was in the plaza of the towers. It was completed buried by debris. When it was unearthed, it was completely burned, except for 1 branch. The branch was carefully re-planted in Cortlandt Park. Daniel said it was probably the most well-cared for tree in history. When the 911 Memorial was complete, it was re-planted. It’s seedlings are kept and cared for so that the tree can live for forever. The seedlings are also sent to tragedies all over the world to be planted as a sign of hope and renewal.
Our part of the tour with Daniel came to an end. He escorted us to the entrance of the museum and gave us instructions to start in the basement so that we could see as much as possible, as we had tickets to go to the top of One World Tower.
The entrance of the museum has numerous pieces of the metal recovered from the buildings.
From the stair landing you can view the message, “No day can erase you from the memory of time”. The letters are made from salvaged steel from the towers. The blue on the sign background is to represent the sky after the towers fell.
There are hundreds of displays…the motorcycle restored in honor of a fallen fire fighter, quilts, murals, and pictures.
There is a room called the Profile room. You can touch a picture of one of the 9/11 victims and listen to the story of that person, as told by a relative or friend.
You can look at what is left of the foundation, where the steel beams were, and also the stairs that people walked down to safety. They are known as the Survivor Stairs.
There are displays of items pulled from the debris…
In the North Tower excavation there is the September 11, 2001 Historical Exhibition. There is no photography allowed. It is a very powerful and emotional place. We were brought to tears several times. Watching the video and listening to the audio, especially the voice recordings from the airline passengers. It is a very special place.
About 500 human remains were recovered from the debris, so the entire area is considered sacred ground due to the other remains never being recovered and many of the remains are on site in the repository.
Our time in the museum had come to an end, as we had a scheduled time to go to the top of 1 World Trade to the observation floor. The building took 10 years to build. It is 1776 feet(yes that is symbolic) with the spire. It is also known as Freedom Tower and is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, with 104 floors. The elevator takes you to the 102nd floor in 47 seconds. It was built with 8 sides to symbolize the 4 sides of the 2 towers. The bottom 190 feet of the building is reinforced concrete 3 feet thick. There was 5.4 million cubic feet of concrete used in the construction as well as 45,000 tons of structural steel. The stairwells have a higher air pressure than the individual floors, for evacuation purposes. The air filters are built for biological weapons. 70% of the building is occupied, with Cond’e Nast (a media company)as the anchor tenant. Building Two is on hold due to a lack of tenants. There are no plans to re-construct Buildings 5 and 6.
At the observation area, there was a cool feature, where you could rent a tablet for $20.00 that was pre-programmed with all of the buildings, bridges, parks, etc… We thought this would be worth while so we knew what we were looking at.
A few views of the city of New York…unfortunately due to the time of day, we had a bit of a glare off the windows. It was pretty cool to look at the city from a different view.
We departed One World Tower through the Oculus, which is massive inside.
There was still time left in the day, so we headed towards the Brooklyn Bridge, which connects Manhattan to Brooklyn.
It is a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge and is one of the oldest bridges of that design in the United States. It is 5989 feet long. Construction began in 1870 and was completed in 1883. The rock towers were added in 1875.
Views from the Brooklyn Bridge…
We arrived in Brooklyn and took one last view of the bridge with Manhattan in the background. We caught the subway back to the Astoria station in Queens. Since it was late, we grabbed pizza from the convenience store by the station. Surprisingly, it was pretty good and inexpensive.
Our first full day in New York was a success. We learned a lot, saw a lot, walked a lot, and even cried a bit. Tomorrow on Day 3 of our New York adventure, we explore the Statue of Liberty.