My wife and I were joined by friends, a couple we socialize with in our home area. Our plans were based around seeing three Broadway plays, “The curious incident of the dog in the night,” “The Book of Mormon,” and “Shuffle Along,” and a boat tour around the Hudson and the East Rivers to see the sky lines, and the Statue of Liberty. We thought we’d do more museum strolls, but ended up only going through the Whitney, which is all about American art across the years.
Given the Memorial Day weekend here in the US, allow me to share a couple of experiences in the financial district which includes the Number One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial gardens. I left our home near 800 Avenue of the Americas and ran south toward the financial district, realizing after about 20 minutes that the distance to the Memorial was in my range. The new Number One World Trade Center is a huge building, 1776 feet tall, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. It is the one you’ve seen in pictures.
I ran toward the skyscraper, had to angle around a bit to get to the front, and the area where the Memorial pools, museum, and areas of trees and grass. Check out their website, well worth a few minutes of your time at https://www.911memorial.org/memorial.
As I walked around Number One, and saw the memorial area coming in to view, an intense number of emotions began to swirl through my body, chiefly sadness, with the many memories returning of that day almost 15 years ago now. I had not really read much about the memorial, so to walk through it was a discovery experience for me. It was mid morning on Sunday so the area was lightly populated with people, lightly being maybe a thousand or so people on the 8 acre park. There was a somber reverence present in the many people there. I walked to the first pool, and was near overwhelmed by the magnitude of the place, the event it was memorializing and my feelings of this.
The reflecting pool itself is a square one acre in size. Each side has the inscribed names of those who died in that tower. There is flowing water going down each side into the pool many yards below, then it flows to another smaller square where the water falls into the depths of the pool and disappears. There are flowers laid at some of the names. The diversity of NYC is clearly present as one reads these names. People whose roots came from all over the world. It was a tearful experience discovering the meaning of three thousand lives lost as the size of the memorial hints at the deeper meaning of that loss . . . walking, listening to the water falling, seeing, reading the thousands of names, arranged by floor and side of the tower.
I walked over to the second reflecting pool, representing the second tower, and walked around it. This one also included all the many first responders who died that day. The number of different agencies whose members were present that day was initially surprising to me. Of course it made sense upon considering NYC status and the number of local, state, federal, and private groups required to manage security and safety in this city of cities. Agencies known and more I’d never heard of, nor would have imagined who have a responsibility there.
I had noticed there were a number of police cars and a group of people there at the south west corner of the park, so began to wander toward the corner As I got nearer I hear a gun shot . . . and witnessed the beginning of a foot race! Hundreds of runners. This was exciting for me, having run down to the area . . . and wanting some solace to balance the experience I just had. It turned out the race was an annual affair honoring the NYC Police who died that day. I understood this as I joined the maybe three hundred runners, and read the back of a fellow’s tee shirt which said, “I’m running today to honor James O’Connor, my son” . . . big tears for this father, and the deeper understanding of who was running and why.
What a great experience for me to share! I ran the first quarter mile or so, with sadness shaking my body, of being in the presence of the police, their family, and friends honoring the departments’ loss of so many individuals that day. This written on that back of runner’s tee shirts, and on smaller posters placed along the route. Soon I began noticing that the runners were not feeling the sadness I felt, but full of positive energy, laughing, smiling, offering hellos and high fives to each other. Once again the diversity of the city was clear, young and old active duty and retired officers, men and women, brown, white, and black officers. The gang squad rallied around their stylized American Flag of black, white, and one green strip. Tattooed, and young they ran. Officers in English bobby type hats ran as did their wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, and children.
I realized they have lived here since before 9/11/01 and through all that has transpired since nine eleven. They have come to terms with 9/11 and were here in a celebratory mood. It was a poignant understanding of the healing and integration from 9/11 for the first responders and all New Yorkers of their many stripes who have had living here these 15 years. The ability of the human spirit to adapt, heal and move forward . . . even with the loss of so many people that day and of and so much more.
Having entered the group at the end, a sense of running fast as I moved forward through the crowd of runners. The route was out and back on a 1.5 mile circuit for a 3.1 mile race. The fastest runners were soon on the return loop and being cheered by all the rest of the runners as they passed. The gang unit, looking young, strong, tattooed with so many ethnicities were right at the front of the race leaders. Soon the first women ran by to a swell of cheers and fist pumps.
It was great! What a present I had been given that day: The run down to the district, the experience of the memorial, and then the healing of running with so many of New York’s finest, their colleagues, friends, family, and me, this 64 year old from Carson City reveling in their energy. This was the high point of my visit.
Please enjoy a few of my photos, The four of us returned and spent more time at the Memorial Gardens on Monday. Please enjoy a few of my photos.
Stephen Nicholas, copyright 2016