Ground Zero: A Chance for Renewal

My feet were on fire. Crippled as though I intentionally walked a turtle pace over searing coals. Yet there was a determination to arrive before sunset.

My last memory of the towers were seen through the eyes of a chubby child. Brooding monoliths – the epicenter of New York. I recall peering up at them, agog at their ability to touch the heavens, wondering if they communed with God. We visited a store, a vast one where I could select any doll representing a country. My visual senses were intrigued with a doll from Panama, she was clothed in a flamenco style dress, dark glossy hair spilling down, a serene smile suffusing her face. Little did I know her gypsy image would become my emblem.

After that, I filed away those memories as an important site of New York, where workers conducted business and sold pretty dolls. Until September 11, 2001. I secretly rallied against a corporate mentality, but my beliefs were not in play here. Politics, personal ethics, or conspiracy theories aside, those who perished were humans with dreams, possibly even to escape a 8/9 hour day in the towers. What a horrible way to exit, most undesired.

I walked down Worth Street, willing my aching legs to comply – make it to Center at least. I cut down Church Street, eager to trek to the end. What hit me was a mob of workers/commuters.

All of them in a mad rush to start the long commute home. Maybe as far as Brooklyn or Queens. The edges of sunset started to form on the horizon. People walked by the site unfazed, probably replaying a list of tasks to do before getting home. I obviously had one intention.

It was heavily fenced and policed, a mass of construction workers assembled concentrating on the task of rebuilding. At certain moments my skill as a writer comes in handy, other times it’s annoying. I could almost imagine that day – see the crumbled concrete, hear the frantic shrieks. Feel the vibrating madness and chaos.

It was somber to see a cementary near.

I’m not a ghoul seeker by trade, but when you recall something as it was, sometimes it’s important to revisit, to know what exists today. A place’s dark history is telling. As a traveler, we have the chance to see both through historical records and architecture. Never dismiss the power of storytelling.

After stalking the site a bit with my camera, I visited the 9/11 Memorial Preview space, just off Church Street.

A sequence of that fateful day is available to visitors as well as a model of the new buildings. What I discovered inside: my renewed respect for what constitutes the building blocks of America. That bullish spirit in the face of adversity, the ability to continue forward. Overall, the World Trade site will have 7 towers built. 7 World Trade Center across from the site opened in 2006, earning LEED gold. The whole project is ambitious and a roar against tragedy.

We tend to be creatures of habit, thus clinging to a set of protocols that may not always be beneficial. The lost towers serves as reminder to shake ourselves into a state of dreams. What we deem so precious can be squelched in a blink of an eye.

It was night. Time to brace for the walk and biting wind.

Century 21 was near, a good place for cheap shoes or marked down designers. Somehow, I wasn’t in the mood for shoes.

For more information visit National Memorial 9/11.

To chart construction progress: WTC Progress.

By |November 3rd, 2010 |Categories: New York |10 Comments

Journey to New York & Whirlwind Week

After leaving Longus snorting.. er.. sleeping happily away at 5:30 am, I stumbled out of my room to grab a cab back to Bangor’s bus station. The next leg of my overland journey would total 11 hours of bus time. My call to the front desk the night before was a small victory after losing out on a cheap room at Motel 6.

“Yes, we can arrange a cab for you. It’s a complimentary cab as our guest at Ramada.” Sweet relief on the budget.

Come 6:00 am I grew nervous because the bus was due to leave at 6:30. Greyhound has been known to arrive early. After cajoling the young man at the front desk to inject some new life into my cab request, it finally arrived at 6:10.

I hopped in barking at the guy to hurry up, when he cheekily pointed out the empty streets. Heh. I always get a little jumpy about missing a bus or train, so sue me.

Maybe my panic was justified, once we pulled up they were already loading. Another mad dash to board before I was left behind with a gigantic statue of Paul Bunyan.

Bus rides for me are punctuated by zoning out, listening to neglected music, or sleeping. I cannot, for the life of me, write. That’s how I whittled away hours on the bus, between quick sprints to the restroom or snacking.

Eventually we made it through Massachusetts and onto Boston, where I had to disembark for 45 minutes at South Station.

The few visuals I saw of Boston intriuged me, seems like a place worth exploring one day. It felt expansive, a city tangled in tradition and loyalties.

Awareness level was down after a spotty sleep, let’s just say I looked less than perky.

After reboarding at South Station, my seat mate was a tried and true easterner, he pronounced it Bawwston. Made me giggle. He offered some tips on New York, having lived there for 8 years, even pointed out some neighborhoods as the bus wormed further into the bowels of New York. Always great to get insider information.

As for the city that embraces action and friction, the last time I was here I was 10 years old!

My childhood memories were many firsts. I saw my first large scale city. I unintentionally saw American Gigolo, an R rated film, but was thwarted by my Uncle. I officially became a woman. That sticky substance in my pants wasn’t due to a humid summer and unforgiving polyester. Life had arrived.

So had New York this time around. When I got to the Port Authority I felt swallowed by an urban snake. Loud, smelly, brash and bold. It was fantastic.

It took some coordination to find my cousin. After some hurried texts and a phone call, we finally met on a bustling corner off 8th Avenue. A congregation of humans enveloped me, along with the call of the urban wild. Car horns, drivers stopping and starting, fleets of taxis, concrete buildings thick as a forest, and the people. Imagine gathering a random cross-section of statistics based on gender, ethnicity, income level and street toughness into one pot of stew.

My first two nights would be spent in Queens, one of the five Burroughs. As my cousin maneuvered in traffic, we experienced a few near fatal accidents. It felt akin to an intense 3-D film or a hardcore video game. I had forgotten the functions of big, city life. Reminder noted.

The Queens Bridge was backed up solid, even on a Saturday night, so we had to take an alternate bridge. All in all, it took a neat 2 hours to make it to what is common in Canada: quiet, tree lined streets filled with mid-size homes. Equipped with tidy strip malls, of course.

The final few days were spent in Manhattan with my Aunt and Uncle. Walking the streets destroyed my feet, but lifted my resolve. I had promised myself to do 1 thing a day, not waste time. It reminded me of those first threads of planning this dream trip. Life shouldn’t be wasted, yet we do. Time is precious, but we spoil it.

Grand things were seen. The old favorites of Central Park, gawking at Times Square, art appreciation. The newness of meeting fellow travel bloggers.

America has always struck me as a place of extremes.

New York is a beast to reckoned with. The subway can be a quagmire, the congested air a stress on the lungs. But what I saw in all this division is a common thread. People will help (except cabbies). Numerous times I observed a native assisting another native, showing them how to navigate Canal Street or 86th and Lexington. Even which subway to take back uptown. It wasn’t just me, a very obvious tourist, but each other.

As I hobbled from the Metropolitan Museum of Art today, chomping on a pretzel what surrounded me was a spiritual glow. Sunset was approaching, a nippy wind touched my skin. I was heady with a city that affects you, whether negative or positive.

My short, adult stay confirmed something: I love New York.

Travel blogger in photo: Shawn of Rerunaround.

By |October 29th, 2010 |Categories: New York |16 Comments