Monday, 12 October 2009

... New York City: Lest We Forget

Despite being on a trip, I had set my alarm for a semi-unGodly hour so that I could get up to go for a run around Central Park. Yes, I am one of those crazy freaks that will pack running gear when I go away. It was wonderful! Here I was pounding pavement in New York City! Booyeah! I was the only person in the park running around it in a clockwise direction. It was great. Oh yes, I'm definitely different.

After grabbing breakfast on the way back to the hotel and showering it was time to head out for another day of exploring. The plan was to head south west through as many neighbourhoods as possible below Central Park and the Upper West Side finishing up in Lower Manhattan and taking the FREE Staten Island Ferry out to see the Statue of Liberty.  My itchy feet like to be frugal and nothing beats free!

My first port of call was the Empire State Building, although having visited in 2001 I decided not to go in this time.

The Art Deco building is very impressive though and it is well worth a visit inside if you have never been. It was the World's tallest building at 102-stories from 1931 until 1971. Its full height to the tip of the pinnacle is 443.09 m. The indoor and outdoor observation decks are some of the most popular outdoor observatories in the world. The 86th-floor observation deck offers impressive 360-degree views of the city. There is a second closed observation deck on the 102nd floor that is open to the public as well. The floodlights illuminate the top of the building at night, in colours chosen to match seasonal and other events.

Perhaps the most famous popular culture representation of the building is in the 1933 film King Kong, in which the giant ape climbs to the top to escape his captors but falls to his death after being attacked by airplanes. I didn't see any apes today.

The Flatiron district is home to the distinctive triangular Flatiron Building.  It was also home to a Museum of Sex! *snicker* I didn't go in... honest!... but instead wandered around Madison Square Park as there were some neat artisan stalls set up before I hopped on the subway the rest of the way down to Lower Manhattan.

There are a few things that don't cost you an organ in this City. One of the top freebies is the Staten Island Ferry. This departs from Whitehall Terminal in Battery Park.

The 8km 25 minute ride gives some fantastic views and as good an experience as when I when I sailed to Liberty Island back in 2001, but minus the crowds. The best view of course is of the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island. There in all her green glory Liberty has been guarding the entrance to Lower Manhattan since 1886.

It was however a sobering thought to look back at Lower Manhattan's skyline in 2009 changed so dramatically in a most diabolical & evil act 8 years previously.

Lower Manhattan includes the Financial District, home to Wall Street, Trinity Church, the New York Stock Exchange and of course Ground Zero. The WTC site was very strange to be around. You can't help but go to look but you feel kind of guilty for snapping shots of what is a place of death. You sense death in the air too. It's hard to describe but it's as though all the happiness you have ever known gets sucked out of you in and around that specific area. The site is a barren hole where construction of the planned memorial park seems painfully slow. I had wanted to primarily visit it not out of morbid curiosity but more out of respect. My mother & I had visited "Top of the World Trade Centre Observatories" in the South Tower prior to the tragedy.

There is a WTC Visitors tribute centre a non-profit ran by the WTC Families' Association with tours led by New Yorkers directly involved either through experience or loss of a loved one. That was a bit much for me however and instead I slowly made my own way around lost in my own thoughts. It is a very emotional place to be.

FDNY 10 House, located on Liberty Street is directly across from where the WTC stood, suffered significant damage and was nearly destroyed on September 11th. Five members from the Ten House made the supreme sacrifice - the youngest was 26.There is a massive bronze plaque that tells the well known story from the firefighters' point of view. You can't help but get choked, I had to leave.

"Courage is not the absence of fear,
But rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear."

411 emergency workers who responded to the scene died as they attempted to rescue people and fight fires. The FDNY lost 341 firefighters and 2 FDNY paramedics. The NYPD lost 23 officers. The Port Authority Police Department lost 37 officers and 8 additional EMTs and paramedics from private EMS units were killed. There were a total of 2,996 deaths, including the 19 hijackers.

Rest in peace.

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