And so on Day Three of our trip to NYC, we made our way to a spot I had been anxious to visit on all three of my trips to the city. For some reason, I had managed only once to even drive by Ground Zero - and that was a few years back. I don't know what I hoped to accomplish. I only know I felt compelled to spend at least a moment in time in the place where so much changed for our nation. A moment to say "I'm sorry this happened" and "I have not forgotten". It may sound silly, but I could not shake this instinct.
I want to be very clear. Being in New York it was evident that as a nation, we could not truly comprehend or fully understand what took place that day, almost nine years ago.
Riding the Staten Island Ferry...I kept thinking of all the people who were on the ferry that morning and watched as the towers were struck. As I walked through the financial district, I was amazed at how small, tightly packed and enclosed the space felt...and that led me to think of how completely all-encompassing it must have been when the enormous towers fell just a block or two over. When we stood atop the Empire State Building...only on the 86th floor...and I could not help but think just for a second about the hundreds of people stranded even higher with no help. Those who made the impossible decision...
So I want in no way to seem presumptuous in this post. I can never know what those who experienced that day in NYC went through. I won't even try to. It is beyond my comprehension the magnitude of complete chaos and horror they were witness to.
But as an American, 9/11 reverberated with me in a deep emotional place, and still does. I know we can all say where we were, what we were doing...what we felt when we saw the events of that day unfold. And for me, like you probably, it was something that completely overwhelmed me - the humanity. The humanity.
Trinity Church on Wallstreet
On September 11th, as the 1st Tower collapsed, people took refuge from the massive debris cloud inside the church. Debris from the tower falling knocked over a giant sycamore tree that had stood for nearly a century in the churchyard of local parish to Trinity, St. Paul's Chapel, only a couple of blocks away. A sculptor used its root base to create a memorial that stands in the courtyard of the Trinity Church today.
St. Paul's Chapel
Despite being directly across from the location where the towers fell, St. Paul's survived without so much as a broken window. The sycamore I already shared is said to have protected the church from further damage.
The chapel hosted rescue workers as they took respite on the pews, ate a meal, slept, and often prayed. The heavy gear rescue workers wore took such a toll on the pews of the church, that ultimately they were replaced. One pew was spared as was an actual fire-fighters uniform used in the recovery efforts.
Many of us watched as loved ones pleaded on the news for any information on the missing. Additionally, I recall seeing the many news shots of chain-link fences covered in missing persons posters. These fences were around St. Paul's and many pictures and desperate posters were placed inside the chapel as well. Many of these were saved as a tribute, as you'll see below.
There are also memorial pieces and beautiful displays around the entire chapel. It is breathtaking. You cannot help but grieve the lives of those lost and feel the pain of those who searched tirelessly for their loved ones.
Across from the chapel, construction is at work on a new tower that stands taller than the Twin Towers, and a Fountain of Reflection, where all the names of those lost will be engraved on the bottom. Every angle of this work-site is blocked off.
A short walk from Ground Zero is Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan. In the park, we came across "The Sphere" which once beautifully stood in the lobby of The World Trade Center. Heavily damaged, it now has a home in the park alongside an eternal flame as a memorial to those who lost their lives that day. At the time it was recovered, a plane seat was found inside.