Day 3

Today was an experience.

After another uncomfortable Conference session, I decided to change into some comfortable clothes, hop on the subway and head to the WTC site. It was worth the trip.

I spent almost four hours exploring the area, and once again there was something new around every corner. The first thing I came upon after arriving was the WTC site. Words can not describe what my senses took in. Though I am very familiar with large cities and particularly skyscrapers, the footprint where the towers stood is enormous. A big hole still remains in the earth, filled with concrete, crains and even some emergency vehicles. Even after almost six years, many of the buildings around the site are still being rebuilt.

The one thing that will forever stick in my mind was the silence. NYC is not known for being quiet, but in this place where thousands of people died there was this silence that filled the area. Even as you walked to/through the financial towers, it was just quiet. People were there, but no one spoke. It was very somber and heavy. I went into a few of the financial towers to the west of the WTC, and they were very beautiful in design. It's amazing that they remained standing.

Being there really helped put things into perspective. Everyone saw 9/11 through the television, but this really brought it to life. I couldn't help but relive the day and feel the grief of the people who were there or who lost a loved one that day. To think about where we were as a country back then and where we are now is frustrating...we have definitely strayed off course.

I found myself at the Hudson River shore and started walking south through Battery Park. It was amazing, because I went from the WTC to this absolutely beautiful park. I have never enjoyed a park as thoroughly as I did this one. There was a slight breeze, the sun was out in full force and it was just perfect. I completely lost sight of the fact that I was still in the city. It was a quiet, peaceful paradise. From the shoreline I could see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Several places along the path I would come across a structure that you could climb up on for a better view. I didn't want the journey to end. I thought about my aunt, uncle and cousin who lived in Battery Park until about a year or so before 9/11. I can see why they still to this day reminisce and talk about how much they would like to go back.

I soon got to a point where I realized I should probably head back towards the financial district, so I changed course. I walked through a maze of narrow streets and came across St. Pauls Church, built in 1776. Once again, I was familiar with the structure but it was even more detailed and beautiful in person. I went inside, looked around and then made my way to the adjacent graveyard. Amazingly enough, none of the headstones, hundreds of years old, were destroyed from when the tower's clasped. It seemed so implausible.

I continued my way down Exchange Street until I reached Wall Street. The first building I noticed was Federal Hall, the scene of George Washington's inauguration as President. It had similar features to the White House and Capital buildings in D.C. Diagonally across the street was the New York Stock Exchange. I was immediately surprised at how old and small the building was. It looks so much larger in photos. On the front of the building was the American flag, which definitely made an impression. The streets were narrow and laid out to where you knew they had been designed in the 1700's where most people rode by horse or walked by foot.

I left Wall Street and headed back towards the WTC. I stopped by the WTC memorial museum, which had some wonderful stories, footage and personal items. One of the items was a stuffed WTC rabbit, which had been found in a fireman's arms. The rabbit was damaged but mostly in tact. A quote next to it stated "If this can survive, why couldn't everyone else?" Other articles included a WTC Windows of the World menu, personal belongings, and a fireman's coat and hat; the coat had been ripped right down the back, off of the fireman. When I left the museum, the road was filled with firetrucks; up the street were police cars lined up in the road. Sirens were going, and for a moment I had to stop and wonder what the hell was going on. I'm still not sure, but it looked more like a gathering than an emergency. Down the street a ways was a marathon, so maybe that had something to do with it?

I walked along the east and north sides of the WTC site and back towards Battery Park, where my aunt and uncle lived. Their building was a couple blocks away from the Towers and was heavily damaged. I came across another part of the park where there were families and kids playing various sports, swinging, playing tennis and spending time together. It's a great thing when you can live in a city of this size and still have this type of place available for people to go, relax, and enjoy the nice weather.

By this time the nerve pain was really kicking in so I reluctantly walked to the nearest subway station. My last sight was of the Empire State Building, standing tall and proud.

Today was a great day, yet it was an emotional one. To see such beauty and a place where such a horrible tragedy occurred...it's conflicting. I'm glad I had the time to visit that part of town; it made my trip complete.

As for the rest of the evening, I stopped by a chinese restaurant for take out (it was delicious!) and took it back to the room. Spent a few hours working, since I have to earn my keep. Tomorrow is my last full day in NYC, and I'm not sure what I'll do. The back/leg pain will probably restrain me to staying within the area. I've seen more than I thought I would, and I really want to do the full, true-blue NYC stay with B sometime soon. I have found NYC to be my kind of town!

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