Instead, Luke took us through Jersey City to the waterfront, and ended up in the huge, mostly empty parking lot, by the State Cruises pier. It was really early Sunday morning, when most normal people sleep in, but the tourists were out and out early. Including, of course, us.
It was also our first glimpse of Lady Liberty. She'd been there all along, but I don't think we'd looked for her the way we did this morning.
We headed, first, to security. Dick had spoken a little bit about it at the Empire State Building, but people in the City now were used to extra security at nearly all the public gathering places that had something prominent at them. Famous places, like the Empire State Building, the Statute of Liberty were all possible targets, so the natives had gotten used to going through metal detectors, having their stuff searched either by x-ray or by hand, and they all had a visceral understanding of why it was necessary, since they'd all gone through 9/11. The natives don't complain about the searches.
We didn't, either. *laughs* The kids were great through all the searches, and did as they were asked. There were no problems from either side of that particular equation, which was nice.
No one was left behind, and we all made it on, no problem. The ferry system here in NYC doesn't take cars, they only take people, by design, since the cars only seem to clutter the streets even more than they are already. This particular ferry went through Ellis Island to the Statute of Liberty and then to Battery Park in the south-most tip of Manhattan, not the normal commuter line, but they had dozens of them all up and down both sides of Manhattan, from Jersey City and Brooklyn.
Some day, I think I want to see Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx too. *laughs* But for this trip, Manhattan was plenty.
On the ferry itself, I had some luck. The outside decks were already filled with people, and inside the sheltered area were a lot of benches next to the windows. Some of the seats were next to the panes which could be opened. All the window seats were taken when I got in there, but a few minutes before we left, a couple sitting at one of the windows decided to leave, so I took that seat. So I was able to get unobstructed views of thing outside my window. Including this one of the ferryman just waiting for us to go.
Coming into the United States, you had to be in good health to be allowed in. Those who were sick were stuck in quarantine and if they got better, they could enter. Those that didn't get better were shipped back.
The ferry stopped there briefly to drop some people off, get some people on, and then cast off again for the Statue of Liberty. This is when I was very very happy that I had an open window.
She is the largest statue in the United States. There are dozens taller than her, including a Buddha that is nearly twice her height, throughout Asia. It was interesting to have Dick say, that "Washington Crossing the Delaware" is always larger than everyone thinks it ought to be, and that Lady Liberty always seems to be smaller than everyone thinks she ought to be.
Still, when I first saw her, I thought she was amazingly huge. Especially if you compare her to the size of the people at her feet, all gazing up at her from around the rim of the island itself.
The pedestal and supports below her are pretty amazingly solid.
Most everyone headed off in all directions, but we decided to follow Dick and got one of those moments when he recognized this ranger. They talked animatedly about something, and I noticed the guy's thick local accent. Brooklyn if I had my uneducated guess, but it was really kind of a microcosm of the place and city. He, of course, knew Dick and congratulated us on having him for a guide.
Climbing up into the statute is now possible again, but it takes a reservation well in advance and some lines, as the way up into the head of the statue is a spiral staircase. Dick said that it's almost exactly like the Belvedere Castle stairs, i.e. so narrow only one person can really fit through at a time. So they have to time it and make sure people can get up and come down safely. We saw the build that houses the way into the statute and all that, but mostly everyone hung around the gift shop and cafe.
It's interesting because everything I felt said that we were in a harbor, when really we're pretty far from the ocean. It really was mostly just river, though a little further south they call it the Upper Bay. It struck me, when we were going over the names in Central Park that they could call things The Pond or The Lake and everyone would actually know what they were within the context of The City.
On one of the bus stops, I'd seen a sign that said, "He had the true New Yorker's secret belief that people living anywhere else had to be, in some sense, kidding. -- John Updike." And there's an attitude here that reflects that beautifully. In many senses this *is* The City, and it wasn't until I walked here that I really got a feeling for what a character it really is. I still remember countless DC and Marvel comics where this city, for all intents and purposes, is the backdrop and often active and working character for the people in those stories. So many of them are fighting for their love of this city, good or bad guys alike, and now I could see why.
Actually, from the fact that there is a harbor pier and the Customs House right there, this probably was the way shipping came into New York City for the longest time. It would explain the ships of people going to Ellis Island just across some of the water, and it also explains why nearly all the shipping is just a bit to the south of all this now. So, I guess, what feels like a harbor really is a harbor.
The traffic and people never got nearly as stopped up in the other cities as they do in New York, while while they might have had more numbers of high rises, they were never this closely bunched together and the ones in China were far less well maintained and many many more of them were abandoned in Shanghai. Here every inch is used. I suspect Tokyo would have more of the feeling of every inch being precious space, to be filled with commerce and an active life.
It's an old fort, with a battery of guns that was used to defend these waterways. There's an amazing exhibit in the museum there of the skyline since the 1900's and how much it's changed. There were a lot of people just hanging out at the park, enjoying the greenery, the walkways, the water, and the trees and shade and open areas to walk.
It's actually more than just a modern art sculpture, at least here. It was on Ground Zero, underneath the buildings when they fell. During the recovery period, it was found under the rubble, battered and beaten up, but intact. So they carefully pulled it out, and set it up again here, still battered, but relatively unbroken, kind of symbolic of the whole day and a precursor to our visiting the Memorial Site. It has its own undying flame next to it, and I liked that its sculptor, on helping with the reinstallation of it, said that it had taken on a life of its own, one that he hadn't imbued it with when he'd made it.
At the very northern tip of the park sits a particularly intriguing and well known piece of guerrilla art.
Talk about entrepreneurial...
Anyway, the police hauled it away, but the city had already come out to see it and there was a lot of outrage and outcry about it not being displayed, so the City decided to put it at the top tip of Bowling Green.
I couldn't get a shot of its front. There were people lined up to take pictures with the head and backend of the Bull. *laughs* There's a happy little myth that anyone that touches the bull in a particular place will have great financial luck. It's so much like kissing the turtle in the Tomb of Kings, or kissing the Blarney Stone or... all of the like.
So people were all over this beast. It was a fun thing to actually see in the bronze, and it's pretty awesome close up and against its warm metal shoulder like this. But it did make me wonder just how aggressive we seem to be to the rest of the world. Then again, tourists were putting their babies up on the horns of this monster, and seemed very happy to just take pictures with it.
There were all kinds of heroes from specific airport pilots to people who'd negotiated a peace settlement to an the Olympic athletes who'd gone to Germany during WW II. It was an interesting collection of humanity at its finest.
I loved that. The facade fits it very well.
But they got their picture in with George Washington, and people were more or less politely waiting to get their pictures in. As you can tell by the guy in the back right there, some were a mite less patient.
Trinity is an Episcopal Parish church, and it had debris rained on it when the towers fell. A lot of Wall Street got debris. And one of the sculptures in the front yard is made from a sycamore tree that got destroyed then.
It was interesting, today, to realize just how deeply 9/11 is etched into the very fabric of NYC's life, and how deeply held it is and how visceral every remembrance or memorial is for the people who survived it and live here still.
We made our way toward the 9/11 memorial site by walking, and I was pretty grateful for the slow approach and a way to digest and think of all the other roots this place has.
The list of restaurants in there is pretty amazing, and it's very much an upscale sort of place.
The bottom floor had actual linen napkin and waistcoated waiters planted amid various shelves of foods, bakeries, and other of the like. The menus down there were not for the light of pocketbook. And there were business people in their suits and dresses, who were being very clearly waited upon diligently on stools and tables that were right next to the walking traffic coming through.
The upstairs was the open food hall, like a mall, but the food choices were anything but mall chain food. Everyone scattered to find what they liked best, and most of the kids grabbed dessert first, from the cupcake stall or ice cream. John, being John, went to Chop'T and got an amazing looking salad.
Beijing noodles and dumplings. Someone on the trip had asked me what northern China does for food, as rice probably couldn't grow very well up there, and I"d answered that wheat does just fine up there, and was a staple food in the north.
Yeah. I kept staring at the pork belly version of zha jian mein. Mom used to make that dish all the time, and she still does, with cucumber strips that go on top of the meat sauce on spaghetti, basically. Finally, I decided to get the noodles, and Jet decided on the dumplings because they were well within his $10 budget. I blew my budget a little. *laughs*
Wow was it worth it. The noodles had the distinctive chew of handmade noodles, though they weren't yellow enough to be alkaline noodles, which wouldn't have been appropriate for this dish anyway. The pork zha jiang was rich and luxurious with meat and there were soy beans, both yellow and green, studded throughout the sauce. The carrot and cucumber threads were beautifully cut, and the rocket greens on top really added a nice touch of crunch and bitterness.
I really loved it. *laughs* And it was big enough for me to share good portions of it with both John and Jet. I was so happy. We had a little time to pick up some specialty cookies from the bottom floor, use the restrooms, and pick up a free coffee from a coffee shop that was celebrating its anniversary. Though the weather, for me, was just a little too hot for hot coffee. *laughs*
One of the things was this camera crew, that got security all riled up for a bit, but settled in for their work for a while. Eventually Dick came back out and talked with us a little. He asked us how he liked his palm trees.
Yes. Palm trees. Indoor palm trees that do just fine in the heat and humidity inside the mall, and just lend a hint of more tropical climes to the wealth of the place. He said something about them having to replace them in a few years, but the whole complex is nearly brand new, so I'm not sure how many have had to be replaced yet. They seemed very healthy and happy where they were.
We all wandered up and wandered down, and I happy took pictures of all the stones, but there were two elderly ladies that stayed in the cottage talking about their families that had come over because of what this commemorated.
The weather had gotten pretty sticky and hot by this time, so when Dick decided to take us into a financial building and then down into the subways and then across into air conditioned walkways, I was pretty grateful
The loss of life if that had happened would have been even bigger than it was. These new areas were built with some of that in mind. It was also really beautiful and the upper architecture matched what was down here.
To a point.
When we got to the far end of this, there was still an open tunnel, part of the old system, that led to a different part of the subway system, and it was still under construction. We could see high voltage power lines laid in the ceiling, all the wiring and pipes bare to the eye. There were also about a dozen Army officers in full protective gear just standing watch throughout the area, which was an interesting thing to see, for me at least.
From the underground, Dick took us to a little shop called the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site. It's got the timeline all around the inside of the shop, and an on-going video with an overview of what happened, why it has to be remembered, and a general sense of what it's all about.
I'm not ashamed to say that I couldn't stop crying while in there. There was just no way. It has always been pretty clear to me what happened, what kind of courage was shown during the whole thing, and how much destruction it had all done; but being right up against it so to speak was hard. Especially after doing the 911 transcripts for the last couple of years, and hearing the transcripts there, I had a visceral reaction, knowing just how our own police and fire people would have responded, knowing how they would just run in, just... that's part of why I couldn't stop crying.
We both bought things. In part it supports the memorial, but in part, for me at least, it supported me in there. I got a huge, fluffy sweatshirt with the an I ♥ NY with a blue heart. It felt appropriate.
It was pretty cool, when we went there, there were people grilling out front, in anticipation of a party. They were cleaning the interior, and at first, the chapel keepers refused to let anyone in to look, but Dick talked with them gently, and everyone got a few minutes to go in and look around for a while.
14,000 volunteers worked to help relieve 2000 recovery workers that were on Ground Zero every day in this chapel. People from all over the city and the country helped out as they were able.
I could only spend a little time in there. I had to go out into the graveyard, and just sit on a bench and listen to the traffic and cars go by.
Life does go on, all around us, in every way. I had a little time to talk with Jodie, the leader of the Canadian group, because she was obviously as affected as I was by it all, and that was good in its own way. Mr. Swarn's grief was evident as well. He is a native, and whenever he said something about 911, it was very clear that he remembers in a way that we, who were not witnesses to the city in the aftermath, never can.
The old foundations surround various presentation rooms. One of the had all kinds of art that was inspired by both what happened and the nation and city's response. Another had a recording of everyone reading their beloved's names in a roll call of everyone that had died on the site. Another had the full time line again. There was a gallery of pictures of the rescue workers for the week after the towers fell, taken by a photographer that was right in the midst of it all.
There were relics scattered across the floors, a smashed in fire truck, the needle tower from the top of one of the towers, the cross section of things that fell down...
... and people, docents, at nearly all of them, speaking with that same knowing that Dick had about what happened.
It commemorates The Slurry Wall.
Typical engineer, I can hear you saying, and it's true. This is just three panels of what was the wall that kept the water from the Hudson from flooding the subway system through the World Trade Center. They've very carefully preserved it, and on that rainy day, the concrete was leaking just a bit. *laughs* It's three-feet thick, made back when the towers were built with a new technology that used powdered concrete and a special slurry that coated a trench that could then be used to pour concrete that would stay.
It held during all the rescue work, and in the following days, whenever they removed debris that was helping it stand, they would carefully reinforce it and make sure it had the support it needed to stay up. The wall is what stayed up when everything else fell down.
In this room, too, is the Last Column, the one that was removed on the date that marked the end of the recovery period. It's signed by all the workers there, and it's a mute testimony to all the souls that worked so hard to pick things up again.
I also bought a National Geographic book of the whole site, with fantastic pictures and a lot of the history.
Overlooking the site is the Freedom Tower, and it's a mighty splendid building up close. It opened to the public that same weekend, but the reservations to go up were sold out months in advance. Dick said that he had a ticket to go up there the day after we left for home, and I hope he got a great view up there.
I should have.
It was good to get down into the subway station, out of the rain. We all stood around for a while, as Dick and a lady he was training, Jenn, were getting all the tickets and distributing them to everyone.
We then followed Dick like ducklings after their mother, through the short and narrow of the New York Subway.
This picture is after we all got off, and were going through the passages toward where we were going to come out to get to Southern Hospitality, a BBQ restaurant. Yes, the tunnels are really short compared to newer systems, but it seems to work for everyone, and the heat in the tunnels seemed to come from the steam system, which was pretty neat to see.
I was really grateful that we had Dick through all this, as he knew where we were supposed to go and which way to head.
It was funny, though, because we came out to a full out rainstorm. I wished I'd gotten my raincoat on, or done what Jet did, which was actually put his raincoat over his backpack. Of course, I'm not nearly skinny enough to fit me and my backpack into my raincoat, but he was. *laughs*
It just poured. At one point, Dick and everyone had ducked under various awnings, and he watched the rain for a while and it showed no signs of letting up at all. So he finally said, "Well, do you guys want to just run for it?"
So we did. And got completely soaked in the process. It was fun and funny as we whooped it up and some of us ran like mad people. I figured if I was going to be soaked, I might as well really be soaked, so I ended up walking a good deal of it.
here, at Southern Hospitality. It's Justin Timberlake's restaurant. *laughs* And they served us family-style with BBQ chicken, ribs, french fries, mac and cheese, and salad while we dripped gently on their chairs and linoleum floors. The back rooms were pretty cramped, but we fit all right, and it was better to dry off in private than public anyway.
I wasn't that impressed with the food, but then it was the group food. It was hot and there was plenty of it. And I actually skinnied out of my wet shirt into the sweatshirt I'd bought earlier, and John helped me layer all the papers and books in my soaked backpack with paper towels so that they'd have a chance to dry a little.
And the servers were just fine with all that, and were very kind to everyone, so I'm grateful for that.
Instead, he took us here. Dylan's Candies was all part of the plan, anyway, it just happened a little sooner. It's a huge candy store, filled not only with all the kinds of candy you know and love, but it also had a bunch of candies made by Dylan's including these amazing little 2 ounce chocolate bars filled with everything from marshmallow cream to bacon. Jet and I each got one of the bacon bars, hoping that it would be good, along with some of the others as well.
Upstairs was an ice cream parlor and bakery. They had French-style macaroons that they were known for, and I went up and got three because I do like them a lot. Luke had parked right outside the store, and so we slowly trickled in as we finished our shopping. He asked everyone to not eat candy on the bus because it's sometimes hard to clean up after, and everyone was great and did that.
We'd pass by random places like a particular cookie shop, a diner, or those rare gas stations (there are only a handful left in the City, and they're slowly going away as the land prices get more and more expensive). We'd see people pushing huge loaded carts through the street and going faster than the cars. It was just fun, and the sight of the skyline at night was always a treat.
Johh pulled the insoles from our shoes and stuck the hair dryer into them, to let them dry out. A lot of things were pretty irreparably marked up by the water, including my Statue of Liberty postcards and the 911 photo book. But it lent them character. One of the funny things was that my composition notebook, that I'd brought along to take notes in, was also soaked and a lot of the line ink ran.
But it also gave it some personality. I'm always going to be able to look at that book and remember how it got to be the way it is. *laughs*
Inspired by the Van Gogh we just saw, I just did a sketch. There were also sketches of roses, a bit of calligraphy, but we were only supposed to post what we liked the most. And then I went to sleep, knowing it would be simple the next morning.
And it was a very good thing, too.