Visit the 9/11 Memorial - done
This is kind of cheating because this goal isn't on the "actual" list, not that it matters. It's something I've been thinking about doing since last September, especially after I had this conversation with Sadira.
Let me back up the story a bit.
We obviously visit New York City A LOT. Usually once a year, sometimes twice. It's Sadira's absolute number one favorite city on the planet, and it's a city I'm fairly sure at some point in her life she will call her home. In the meantime, we visit usually about once a year. Sometimes for a specific reason, sometimes just to go with friends, and other times as a stopover point when visiting one or all of our friends who live in Connecticut.
So when my friend Sandi and her daughter Olivia (Sadie's BFF from ballet class) asked me about a Valentine's Day weekend trip to NYC, I was eager to start planning.
We went up on Saturday morning and came home Sunday night, and these two little four year old girls took NYC by storm! In reality, everything we did (except visiting the brand new Disney Store) Sadira had already done before, sometimes several times before, but she did not care one bit. She was thrilled to show off her favorite city to her little gal pal who had never been to the Big Apple.
Our first stop HAD to be the M&M store:
The red steps in Times Square:
Top of the Rock:
Rockefeller Plaza and the skating rink:
The BIG Piano at F.A.O. Schwartz:
The ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty:
And of course many, many, trips to Starbucks:
I mean, honestly though, how could you NOT have fun with these two??
It dawned on me during this trip how much Sadira has grown up in the past few months. I couldn't help but think back to our previous trips and compare. In so many of the photos from our other trips to NYC Sadie still looks a little like a baby...these days she's 100% kid. The baby days are definitely behind us. It's bittersweet for me.
Obviously I could go on and on...
I have so many memories and I remember all of them just like it was yesterday.
All this to say, I guess I was in a "reflective" kind of mood by the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, and we were heading to the one thing I had not yet already done in New York City--visit the 9/11 Memorial. I knew it would be a powerful memorial. It would be the first time I was able to set foot on what used to be World Trade Center Plaza, in 11 years.
I remember the last time I was able to stand where World Trade Center Plaza was. It was the summer of 2001, and I was in town, racing to meet a friend for lunch, who was interning for the summer at WTC Building 5. I was late (as always) and sprinting to meet him, but I stopped to buy a drink at a kiosk in the center plaza because it was HOT out. In the shadow of the two giant twin towers, I remember running around the water fountain in the center of the plaza, with the giant bronze sphere standing in the middle of the fountain. That sphere would later be recovered and relocated to Battery Park, as a symbol of resiliency.
I have one other distinct memory. I was 7 or 8 years old and my grandmother, great grandmother and uncle Massoud had taken the train to New York City for the day. My uncle had only been in the United States for a short time, at that point. We went to a Broadway show and visited the Statue of Liberty. But at some point during the day (either coming or going from the statue, I'm sure) I remember we ended up at the twin towers. I don't know why we were there, I just remember standing in the plaza, in the middle of the two sky high buildings (they looked even more mammoth at that young age), looking up into the sky at the top of the buildings and spinning until I got dizzy. I can still hear my grandmom, "you're going to make yourself sick!" I was stubborn, "no I'm not Mommom, we do this at recess all the time!" Next thing I knew my uncle was spinning with me (Uncle Massoud has always been the "fun" uncle, since he was the youngest). We just kept spinning, getting dizzy, falling into one another, and cracking up. Over and over again until my grandmother said it was time to go.
Anyway, all of these memories were on my mind that day.
So of course we arrive and have to go through heavy security. I actually couldn't believe my ears when I heard someone behind me complaining about the extensive security. I couldn't help it, I turned around and looked at the guy and said, "really dude? Of all of the places on the PLANET to complain about security and you're going to do it HERE?"
That shut him up.
So we made it through and Sadie promptly fell asleep.
Sandi, Olivia, sleeping Sadie and I made our way through the maze of directions until we finally got through.
We saw the efforts to rebuild One World Trade Center.
And then we saw the names.
The monument itself is huge. The water plummets three stories below into the tower's"footprint." The sound of the waterfall is powerful but calming, as it should be. It's serene and purposeful. It's appropriate.
I immediately saw the name of Chaplain Mychal Judge. I distinctly remember the photo of his body being rescued by firemen. I remember reading his story.
I saw the names of those on Flight 11. I saw Betty Ong's name. I remember reading her story.
Its pretty incredible, all of the names.
I guess it's similar to the Vietnam Memorial for some...but for me, this is what I know. I knew this place before September 11th, I remember the day, and now I know this place post-September 11th. The difference, to me, is that THIS IS the hallowed ground. THIS is where all of these people lost their lives. THIS is where their family members come to pay their respects.
All of those names.
I kept thinking about how the family members of those who's names are listed here must feel visiting this site. As we walked the perimeter of the South Tower memorial I tried to read each and every name. Of course I couldn't, but I tried. I tried to remember that each person had a family, and a life, and memories. Those names aren't just names, each one is a person who is loved and missed.
And then I saw this name, and I stopped:
Richard is my grandfather's name.
Gabrielle was my aunt's name.
Obviously I do not know this man, but seeing familiar names immediately made me think of my own family members. Especially Gabrielle, who passed away in 1995.
I saw this name:
Patricia Ann is my grandmother's name.
And as I went along I saw more and more familiar names.
I saw the names of some of my friends and loved ones.
While these are the names of my friends and loved ones, they obviously aren't representative of my friends and loved ones. But they are someone's. Someone's friend. Someone's family member. Someone's memory.
At some point as we walked the perimeter I got a text that my friends Donna and Jamie (who live in Hawaii) had had their baby. When I saw these names, I thought about how these people would never have the opportunity to send or receive the news of a new baby.
And when we turned the last corner...
I saw my mother's name:
Just like Mr. Richard S. Gabrielle, this name stopped me in my tracks.
I can't even imagine what it must've felt like to lose a parent on 9/11.
Over the course of the weekend, I had constantly found myself REMEMBERING. Remembering when Sadie was younger. Remembering our past trips up to this city. Remembering pictures I had taken...same place, different time.
And here we are, ending our weekend at a place where so many people come to remember the people who's lives were lost....to remember people they had lost.
I'll get to come back another day. When Sadira is even bigger and older. We'll take more pictures and make more memories. But for those people who's names are etched into this monument, they will not have that opportunity.
It's important that we always remember.