Sunday, September 20, 2009

September 19th - Trip to Wall Street

Tina, Dan and I spent the day in lower Manhattan.  Our plan was to take the Light Rail to Hoboken, then the PATH to the World Trade Center.  Of course the trains don’t run on the weekends the way I remember them running 41 years ago when I lived in Hoboken.  But after realizing we had to go to
Journal Square
to go back to the World Trade Center it all worked out.

The station at WTC was much as I remembered it.  My guess is that the actual station was outside of the complex and they only had to rebuild the last set of escalators to the street.  You come out directly adjacent to the site.  We were all very disappointed that the powers that be have completely surrounded the site with high opaque fences.  This prevents you from looking down into the pit.  I am sure some bureaucrat can cite some ordinance meant to protect us as the reason for the high walls but they could have made some of them transparent.  I think it would be far better if people could in fact see into the site every day.  Maybe they are just embarrassed that after 8 years they are still arguing about what to do with the site.  No, that can’t be correct; politicians are never embarrassed by their own total incompetence.

We headed due east to St. Paul’s Chapel.  This is an Episcopal church on Broadway that was used as a refuge and place to eat during and directly after the attack.  Volunteers were serving over 2,000 meals a day at the chapel to the emergency workers. It was built in colonial times and is surrounded by a graveyard.  In the graveyard is a bell that was cast in the UK and given as a gift to the United States.  It was cast by the same company that cast the bells for Big Ben and the Liberty Bell.  It was presented on September 11, 2002 and is rung every September 11th.  You can get some sense of our experience at

Entering the chapel is a very emotional experience.  Although the alter area and the central pews are still in place the perimeter of the chapel has been turned into a memorial to the people who died and those who attempted to rescue them.  One display is shoulder patches from all of the organizations involved.  The bottom of the display is a pile of patches 12 inches or more deep.  I found that I had to take reading the displays in very small bites as my emotions were quite overwhelming.

I spent some time people watching.  I was struck by the fact that many of the teenagers looked a bit bored by the entire experience while the parents with them were having the same strong reactions as I.  I attributed this to age; perhaps one has to be a bit older or personally affected before one is able to see the true evil in the actions of the terrorists.

We spent the rest of the day touring the Wall Street area.  The first big change for me was at the New York Stock Exchange.  All of the streets surrounding the building have been permanently closed and blocked with pretty massive tank traps.  We then headed down to Fraunces Tavern where General Washington bid farewell to his officers after the Revolutionary War.  It is also the site where on January 24, 1975 a bomb exploded in the building.  The Puerto Rican nationalist group FALN took credit for the bombing but no one was ever prosecuted.

We headed down to the Governors Island and Staten Island Ferry terminals.  I had visited Governors Island several times when it was both an Army and a Coast Guard base but believed it had been shut down.  I was surprised that the ferry was still running and that there were crowds waiting for the ferry.   It turns out that it is now mostly a New York State park and also partially a National Park Service park.  We continued around to the Battery where we intended to purchase tickets to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  When we got to the Fort Clinton ticket booth we discovered just how late in the day it was, we had missed the last boat!

We continued walking around and went over to the South Street Seaport where we watched some street performers and had dinner.  We then walked back to the World Trade Center to catch the PATH home.  When we reached the WTC we walked around it in hopes of finding a viewing platform.  We did not, but we did of course walk past the fire station that is across the street from the WTC.  On the side of the station is a memorial to the 343 New York City firemen and women who died on September 11th.  It was a sobering display made more so by the fresh flowers and wreaths at the site.  We never did find a viewing platform if there is one but eventually finished the circuit, boarded PATH and made our way home.

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