Today was a straight sightseeing day in New York. We took the water taxi down the Hudson River which was surprisingly choppy (ick). I'd hoped to get over to Ellis Island and Liberty Island, but due to time constraints we had to settle for the drive-by version.
I'm such a pathetic landlubber. Some of you might remember that I'm a huge fan of Deadliest Catch, the Discovery series about commercial crab fishing in the Bering Sea. It gets really, really rough up there--20-30 foot waves and worse--but I've always thought that if given the choice between having to ride on one of those fishing vessels or going overboard, I'd probably jump in and gladly freeze to death in a matter of minutes. So between the diesel exhaust and the chop, I was able to catch only a part of what our tour guide told us about the passing sites. She admitted that the current had been smooth all day long but as early evening settled on us and the temperature cooled, the waves began stirring. Oh, joy. Fortunately, I survived without mishap but I was so glad to be back on solid footing again.
The rest of the day was interesting and heartbreaking. I visited Ground Zero in April of 2002, just about seven months after the horrible catastrophe that none of us will ever forget. Back then, most of the streets around the site were closed to both traffic and pedestrians. Over the whole area, the smell of burned metal, wiring and, well, just burned everything permeated the air. Underfoot, although the streets and sidewalks had been cleaned, a layer of fine grit crunched like coarse sand. This is all understandable if you think back to the video and still photos we saw. The dust and debris were choking clouds that floated in the air and eventually settled everywhere.
Now, the World Trade Center Memorial is under construction, as are new buildings. Visitors must pass through security very similar to TSA's in airports, complete with plastic bins and x-ray equipment. In the footprints of the former North and South Towers are amazing waterfalls, surrounded by walls that bear the names of all those known to be lost in the tragedy. Because, as we were told today, approximately 4,500 people were never found, this memorial is also a cemetery. Somewhere within that site, their remains lay. So it isn't a park, which was clearly demonstrated when I saw a member of the security staff tell a woman to put her shoes back on--this is a place of respect that demands sensitivity to the victims, their families, and the visitors.
There is so much history in this city and I'm sorry I don't have the time this trip to explore more of it. That just makes the idea of returning all the more tantalizing.