Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Day 23: Ground Zero

Today's Distance: 0 miles (in our car anyway)
Total Distance: same as yesterday
Today's Destinations: WTC and 9/11 Memorial

We didn't do a whole lot in the city yesterday, but we did have a lot of City Experience.  First of all, we took the (right) subway the wrong way and got slightly lost, but we just ended up going to the World Trade Center a little sooner than we had originally planned, which was good, since it got humid really fast and we probably wouldn't have felt up to it later.

Our second city experience is that NYC's metro cards kind of suck.  We had a lot of trouble with them (DC's are way easier to use, if more expensive).

Our third city experience is that if you look like a tourist, you will be attacked by people selling stuff.  And if you're a nice person like Justin and you actually listen to the people selling stuff, they will keep hounding you to buy stuff from them and you just have to keep walking (I learned this lesson myself in the mall years ago, so now I don't make eye contact with vendors).

Our fourth city experience is that we're pretty sure our server at lunch was way slower with our table because we were obvious tourists.  The cheesecake was good though.

And our fifth city experience was going to a laundromat.  Tips if you have to do this: 1) take an ice-cold waterbottle, and 2) take a book.  The magazine selection leaves a lot to be desired (although thanks to EW's recommendation I'm now watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Shmidt on Netflix).

Back to the street vendors.  Fortunately, there seems to be a "You Shall Not Pass" line at the WTC beyond which the vendors don't go.  The site is still under construction, but a few of the buildings are complete, and you can visit the 9/11 memorial where ground zero is.

The former Twin Towers have been turned into fountains.  Around their perimeters are the names of the people who perished in the terrorist attack 14 years ago.  I started to cry as I looked at it, which is something I've never done at a war memorial or a cemetery or anything like that.  The senselessness of their deaths struck me.  Most of the time when we memorialize the deaths of a lot of people, it's because they died fighting for something, or trying to save someone, or they did something really awesome and memorable.  All these people did to die was show up to work that day.

Chaim Potok's The Chosen deals with this problem, the problem of the senselessness of suffering, whether it's a fly caught in a spiderweb or a little boy going blind or the slaughter of 6 million Jews. When bad things happen, we all tend to ask "why?" We look for a reason, for meaning.  The protagonist's father says that it's up to us to create meaning, to make something good come out of something bad.  I feel like that's what the 9/11 memorial does.  It took something senseless and tragic and utterly evil and made something beautiful out of it.  The names of the victims surrounding the place of their deaths reminded me that these were real people with real lives, and even though they've now been reduced to just names - a few letters carved into metal - their memory is something that can never be taken away from those who knew and loved them.  And as long as that site stands, their memory can't be taken away from the rest of us either.  They remain, in a sense, as a tribute to humankind's ability to rise from the ashes and continue on - wounded, but still going.


Anyway, if you go to New York, do see the memorial.  It's worth it.

1 comment:

  1. is NYC still using those terrible flimsy magnetic strip transit cards? those are the worst.

    back in 2009 or so I went to New York with a local and we spent the day walking all over Brooklyn and Manhattan, and did some karaoke a few blocks from Ground Zero. there was a matter-of-factness about how he pointed out that the trade centers were /right there/ which was comforting in its own way: it's not a festering wound in the psyche of the locals. you rebuild, you move on, you drink cheap beer at a weird korean karaoke place. it doesn't mean you forget or can't stop to reflect, of course, but in many ways the biggest victory is to carry on.