Since we stayed next to the subway terminal in New Jersey by the Holland tunnel, there were only two routes out of the Newport Station…one to 33rd St and 5th Ave in Manhattan, the other to the World Trade Center. And yes… that’s what the subway sign still says: “World Trade Center”. After all, it still is…and always will be… the World Trade Center…even after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks
We hopped on the subway and, in just 10 minutes, we were in the middle of a construction zone… where 3,000 workers are building One World Trade Center. Construction began in April 2006. So far, they’ve reached the 41st floor. It was cloudy so the top of the building was surrounded by clouds. It was very surreal. Lara and Brittany loved the view and the low clouds and all the excitement around the area!
When completed, One World Trade Center will soar above the city at 1,776 feet and be America’s tallest building. The 2.6-million-square-foot building will include office space, an observation deck, world-class restaurants, and broadcast and antennae facilities. You can read more about the project and follow it’s progress at http://www.wtc.com/about/freedom-tower.
We wanted to see the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero that was dedicated recently at the 10-year Anniversary of the attacks but couldn’t get tickets till Mid-December. We would have had to register for tickets in July to get in mid-October. But we still wanted to get close to the Memorial to see something. That’s where our journey began. We were directed to walk around the massive construction project, which was surrounded by a tall fence and blue tarps. The path took us to a couple of other places we did not expect.
The first unexpected stop has become my favorite place in New York City. It’s St. Paul’s Chapel. I get goosebumps and tears in my eyes even as I write about what we experienced there. The girls were silent as they entered and toured the site. It is directly across the street from the World Trade Center Towers… and remains Manhattan’s oldest public building, opened in 1766. You can see a historic timeline athttp://www.trinitywallstreet.org/history/timeline. It’s where George Washington worshiped and… where 9/11 recovery workers received round-the-clock care. There’s a lot of history in this one small area. As a part of the Episcopal Parish of Trinity Church, St. Paul’s still offers a daily worship called “Prayers for Peace” from 12:30p-12:45p. It’s also become a Memorial for 9/11 and a place that tells the story
On September 11, 2001, St. Paul’s Chapel remained standing when the World Trade Center buildings collapsed. Although the churchyard and church were filled with debris and dust, there was no physical damage to the building. From September 2001 to May 2002, St. Paul’s Chapel opened its doors to firefighters, construction workers, police officers, and others for meals, beds, counseling, and prayer. Local people posted cards, letters and photographs of missing loved ones on the rod-iron fence around the church. Impromptu altars remain inside the Chapel today. Others from around the world sent cards, letters, drawings, flags, and other memorials to St. Paul’s. More than one million people visit each year to learn about the ministry that took place there.
One display holds teddy bears and notes that were left at the Chapel after 9/11. Another display holds badges from police and firefighters that were sent from around the world. And another has the type of bed that was set up for rescue workers. The pews had to be removed from the center of the church to hold more workers. They’ve saved one pew to show how it was scarred and worn after rescue workers, with heavy equipment, were using them as beds. As we walked outside, the girls agreed it was a very moving tribute to 9/11.
Outside, St. Paul’s is surrounded by a churchyard with gravestones and memorials, some from Revolutionary War days. Another highlight is the Bell of Hope, given as a gift by its sister church St. Mary-le-Bow in London in September 2002, to commemorate the Chapel’s mission after 9/11. You can learn more about the Chapel at http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/congregation/spc/. For a complete timeline of 9/11 events and the church: http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/news/features/911-timeline.
We left the church and continued down the street to our second unexpected site… Wall Street and the “Occupy Wall Street” protestors. The streets were congested. There were police officers, construction workers, tourists, protestors and the media. Yes, it resembled a circus. It was still a peaceful demonstration so we moved forward. Of course, the girls asked what the people were protesting. We gave them as good an answer as we could. Since the movement is still in formation, and I’d rather not get into the “politics” of it all… we told them it was people who are unhappy with the economy and think the people on Wall Street can do something about it. Period.
We finally reached the 9/11 Memorial Entrance where those with admission tickets were able to go inside. We assumed if we walked around the site a little more, we could get a glimpse of the Memorial. Somewhere, Anywhere. Just a tiny glimpse. But we weren’t having any luck. We finally walked up a stairway to a catwalk for pedestrians to avoid the construction. There is where we found one window, just one, where we could get a partial view of the Memorial. We were a little disheartened. We understand that
there’s a lot going on in that area but we thought there’d be at least one overlook where visitors could get an overall picture of the Memorial. We accepted what we were able to see and thankful that St. Paul’s Chapel was able to provide us with the history and memorial that it did.
It was time to head back to New Jersey via the subway, then the Light Rail by our hotel (Courtyard Marriott Newport), so we could take the Ferry to the Statute of Liberty. Talk about a vacation filled with public transportation! (By the way, THAT’S being saved for another Blog Post, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles!”).
The Ferry took us to Ellis Island first. What an amazing place of history! The 27-acre site can probably connect with more of the American population than any other spot in the country. The museum is located in the Main Building of the former immigration station complex and tells the moving tales of the 12 million immigrants who entered America through Ellis Island from 1892 to 1924. It’s estimated that nearly half of all Americans can trace their family history to at least one person who passed through the Port of New York at Ellis Island to become an American. Now, almost a century since the peak years of immigration, Ellis Island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the National Park Service.
We walked the stairs where immigrants were separated when they entered…and the Great Hall where they waited for their inspection. If the immigrant’s papers were in order and they were in reasonably good health, the inspection process lasted three to five hours. The museum’s exhibits show Ellis Island’s role in immigration history and include artifacts of items left behind or that were found in trunks, like clothing and shows. There are also hundreds of photographs of families arriving. In many cases, just one person from the family came to America and then others arrived months later. The American Immigrant Wall of Honor® is a special feature of the Ellis Island museum and overlooks the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline. It is the longest wall of names in the world, paying tribute to America’s cultural heritage and contains more than 700,000 names inscribed by family members and friends. You can see more history about Ellis Island at http://www.ellisisland.org.
Next…the Statue of Liberty! As the Ferry got closer, everyone was standing up taking pictures of Lady Liberty by herself… or with family members in the forefront. It was such an awesome sight! Once on the island, we grabbed headphones for our audio tour. Lara was laughing through most of it because she got the German audio tour and said there was a heavy accent from the speaker. Apparently there is a difference in accents between north and south German cities… just like the north and south States in America. We took plenty of pictures as we walked all around the statue!
We snapped the pictures just in time because as we headed back to the Ferry, a huge storm came through, dropping heavy rain and it was blowing sideways! There was no escaping getting wet! You can see how wet we got by the photos below! And it was COLD!!! And to top that off… we had to walk a mile from the Ferry to the Light Rail… with a little more rain and in soaking wet clothes! Funny as it sounds… we used the blow dryer in the hotel room to warm us up before heading to the Shopping Mall across the street for dinner! Definitely something we will always remember…and are still laughing about to this day!!!
More pictures below!
THE NEXT POST…. our final day in New York City with trips to Rockefellar Plaza and Central Park!