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My Saddest Visit to New York City: The Anniversary of 9/11

An image of a tile from the Tiles For America display in Manhattan

For the longest time, I dreamed of living in New York. It’s a common dream, well-documented in various forms of literature and pop culture.

I say dreamed because, not only am I not legally allowed to live in the USA, but now that I’ve lived in Toronto on minimum wage for over seven years, I know there’s no way I’d make it in New York.

Still, I’ve been lucky enough to visit the city many times, and one of these times happened to be on the 14th anniversary of 9/11, the terrorist attacks on the Unites States of America that took the lives of nearly 3,000 people and affected so many others.

It was 2015 and we had gone to New York because the Toronto Blue Jays were playing the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium and my boyfriend really wanted to see them. It just happened to be that week of September.

The game was originally scheduled on September 10th and we were going to fly back to Toronto on the 11th. We got all the way up to Yankee stadium (which, in case you didn’t know, is in the Bronx and quite a long ride on the subway) to find out the game had been cancelled due to rain and rescheduled for the next day, September 11th.

So, because we had flown on standby using our Porter staff travel, we were able to extend our stay until the 12th and we went to the game on the night of the 11th.

September 11th – The 9/11 Memorial service

That morning of September 11th, as I was having breakfast in the hotel’s dining area, the beginnings of the memorial service were playing on the small tv in the corner. The names of all the victims (and I think their ages) were read in alphabetical order, one at a time.

Click to see the slideshow.

A member of the kitchen staff came into the dining room and since I was the only one there, I started chatting with her, and she shared her memory of that day. She was a student at an elementary school very close to the site and she remembers being evacuated and seeing lots of smoke and emergency response vehicles. I pictured what she described and it was haunting to listen to.

A couple of hours later we went down to the memorial and we were able to listen to the second half of the service (we weren’t allowed to go in – you had to be a family member or special guest to attend.)

Click to see the slideshow.

Even though at the time I had no connection with anyone who was living in New York City, or D.C, I was still so saddened and affected by these events and just like many people all around the world and this was an opportunity to pay respect to the victims and their families.

The service was moving and heartbreaking. It was also pretty disturbing to see people sitting at the corner of Church and Fulton Street outside St. Paul’s Chapel holding signs proclaiming things like “9/11 never happened” and “it was all a conspiracy”.

I imagined how heartbreaking it must have been for people who were personally affected by the attacks to have to be exposed to such rhetoric on their day of mourning.

September 11th – The Jays vs Yankees Game

Later that day we made our way to Yankee Stadium for the second time to watch the rescheduled game. Here are some pics. Click to see the slideshow.

I got to eat an ice cream in a sweet mini baseball helmet keepsake dish. I soon found out that’s a staple at baseball games.

Soft serve with sprinkles in a baseball helmet souvenir at Yankee Stadium
Ice cream in a baseball helmet

Remembering September 11th, 2001

This year is the 18th anniversary of the attacks, and common thing said about that day is that people remember it like it was yesterday.

Do you remember the day it happened?

I remember it was almost 11pm and I was up too late when I should have been in bed for school. I was living in Sydney, Australia at the time and September 11th was almost over. But it was just beginning in the USA.

It was all over the news but most of us wouldn’t hear about it until we got up the next morning.

My then boyfriend in that pre-social media age called me and told me to turn on the TV. My mum heard the tv and came in to lecture me about being up too late but then she joined me as we watched in horror.

The incredible structures that formed part of New York’s World Trade Centre and famous skyline came crashing down and brought the city to its knees.

But with its typical ambitious gusto New York City strove to restore its former stature, bent but not broken, back to being the financial centre of the world.

The first time I saw Ground Zero

The first time I ever visited NYC was in 2009 At that time, the site of the towers was known as Ground Zero, and there was nothing but eerily cordoned off empty space where the towers once stood .

I have since met people who did see the towers many years before the tragedy. They remember going up to the top and taking in the incredible view from that height.

I also discovered that my sister was there in the year 2000! I had no idea until today when I was writing this post and asking her about it. She currently lives and works in Manhattan. But at the time she was living and working in London, England and we barely even had cell phones then so since she was on the other side of the world I’m not surprised I didn’t hear about it until now.

My visit in 2012

This was my third time going to NYC and I think it was around late September.

Construction was well underway at the WTC site and the Freedom Tower was being built. Here is a pic of it from the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge or “DUMBO” (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass).

View of the Freedom Tower from Brooklyn

Later that day I accidentally stumbled across a memorial known as “Tiles For America” while exploring Greenwich Village. It was a collection of tiles that were hung on a chain link fence, hand-painted by people and children commemorating those who had lost their lives in the attacks.

Not long after I saw it, the memorial was taken down for a few years. I felt grateful that I had gotten the chance to see it, reflect on it and take some pictures, but I checked today and there is a Facebook page and a site that tell me it’s back on display.

Here are some pics of the original tile memorial as it was when I saw it. I’m already not a great photographer, but these were taken 8 years ago on an iPhone 4 so don’t judge me too much.

When went in 2015, other parts of the site was still under construction but the Freedom Tower was completed.

Click to see the slideshow.

It is an incredible structure. From afar it reflects the sky, and when you stand underneath it and look up it appears as though the top of the building is touching the sky and doesn’t have an end.

Click to see the slideshow.

September 11th will forever be a day of pain and mourning for the people who lost their loves, their loved ones, their jobs, their property, their peace, their trust in things, their ability to enjoy life.

But those attacks changed not only the USA, but the world, forever and it’s effects are still evident today.

9/11 changed air travel forever

I also worked in aviation, and I saw the effect 9/11 had on the aviation industry. So many flight crew lost their lives, their loved ones, their colleagues, their friends.

So many others were traumatized and couldn’t continue their flying careers.

Aviation security was heightened, and gone were the days when non-passengers could escort passengers right to the gate for domestic flights within the USA. Now they cannot go past security.

On flights from Australia to the USA, the flight attendants began making announcements that passengers aren’t allowed to congregate in groups and have discussions, likely because that occurred on one of the flights involved in the attacks.

They still make that announcement; I heard it on a flight to and from Sydney in February of this year. I don’t know if they do it from other destinations to the USA because I’ve only ever flown to the States from Australia and Canada, and they don’t do it on flights from Canada.

After 9/11, it seemed like terrorist attacks started to happen on a fairly regular basis. Bali, London, Paris….There were so many smaller scale attacks after 9/11, but their impact was still huge.

We can’t change what happened. All we can do is live our lives, appreciating each day as a gift and hope we are never impacted by something so callous, heartless, and pointless

Never forget.

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2 thoughts on “My Saddest Visit to New York City: The Anniversary of 9/11

  1. I remember the morning of 9/11 my partner called me from work and told me to turn on the TV. I asked what channel and he said any channel. At that point it was still thought to have been an accidental collision between a plane and the tower. And then I watched on TV as a second plane hit. It was traumatizing and I wasn’t even there.

    The sad part is we will forget, the same way people have forgotten the lessons of World War II/the Holocaust, and the way we forget everything else we should remember.

    Like

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