Up early, Ilana and I headed to the big apple. We met Jess, who was still there after I had left her in New York a few days prior, as well as Sarah, Jess’ girlfriend, and Tom, Sarah’s brother.
With little time, away we went. Firstly, we checked out the Ground zero dedication centre. There were some touching tributes on display from members of the emergency services, survivors and the relatives and friends of the victims, but I thought it was distasteful for the centre to have placed these exhibits next to tacky 9/11 merchandise. To be selling mugs, hats and T-shirts at extortionate prices to tourists and/or people who had been crushed by the tragedy was a step too far for me.
Soon, we left the exhibition, and went for a stroll. Lightening the mood, I went on a Diet Mountain Dew hunt, chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A” as I did it. The closer I thought I was to a Diet Mountain Dew, the louder I murmured “U-S-A”. Eventually, I bought one on the water-front and shut-up; which was lucky, because I realised how utterly insane I would have looked if I had been caught tip-toing towards a store refrigerator chanting “u-s-a, u-s-a, U-S-A, U-S-A”, then flinging the door open: “YOO-ESS-AY, YOOOO-ESSSSS-AAAAAYYYYY!!!!!”.
Mountain Dew in hand, I walked with the others along the sparkling water front past tall, iconic building after tall, iconic building. But the entire time, we were faced with perhaps the most iconic of all: the magnificent statue of liberty. There was something spine-tingling in the way it stood apart from all the other buildings, and though diminutive in comparison, it cut an instantly recognisable silhouette against the watery back-drop.
For a while, we toiled with the idea of getting a boat out to the statue, but had that door slammed shut when we realised the ticket booth was closed. Instead, we saw a street dance show propagating racial stereotypes. Then we nearly held a big snake, until we were too cheap to pay for it. Ahhh, New York…
At 6 ‘O’ Clock, it was time for our scheduled visit to Ground zero and the construction of the gigantic Freedom Tower. On approach, I couldn’t help but notice the contrasting mourning styles. In England, I was almost certain that this would have been turned into a small garden memorial; here, however, the only half-complete “Freedom Tower”, already grazed the clouds. And, of course, not accidentally I presume, it was called “Freedom Tower”. Finally we arrived at the site. I knew that the area previously covered by the Twin towers, which by the way is a huge area, had been transformed into a kind of park where the foundations of tower 1 and tower 2 were now colossal water features. At first glance, it looks like a big courtyard perched between increasingly large sky-scrapers, with uncomfortably strictly regimented trees are dotted in perfect lines about the place. Pretty quickly, once you happen upon one of these vast waterfalls, you realise that this is not the case. Around each waterfall was a large, unbroken plate of metal, with the names of each victim punched into it. Beyond that, water cascades into a big, square basin that precisely maps the base of each tower, and in the very middle sits a smaller square cut into the ground. Water serenely flows towards this central plughole, and disappears into it. In my honest opinion, I thought it was an eerie, but fitting, tribute to those that died. I hoped too, that it would help people appreciate that there are names and stories, just like there was with every one of these 2996, behind every death-toll number, whether it be at home or on foreign soil.
On the way back to our place, I entertained myself by taking super close-ups of everybody’s face. I’m mature like that.