11 September 2015

A Day We'll Never Forget Memorialized in a Vacation We'll Never Forget

Our vacation of a lifetime contained destinations that are part of a “bucket list” of sorts that we have for our children.  Years ago, we had discussed various places we wanted to take them at certain ages.

New York City – specifically Manhattan – is on that list. The age criteria was such that they had to be old enough to “hold their own” as we navigated on foot through the bustling crowd but not old enough to want to move out of the house and take up residence there. Eleven and nearly eight seemed like reasonable ages to fulfill both criteria.

We stayed on Madison Ave. a few blocks away from The Empire State Building.

A hop-on/hop-off tour on a Double Decker bus enabled us to see all the highlights of Downtown Manhattan: Central Park, Times Square, Greenwich Village, Battery Park/Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center and many more.

 It was my second time in Manhattan. When I’m in that city, I just want to stand in the middle of the street with my arms out, my face to the sky and spin around in circles like I’m in a musical. (Of course, I don’t. Because….well...I just don’t). There’s something about the sights, sounds and smells that make you feel hugely alive and very small at the same time. It’s a wonderfully, confusing sensation.

Our tour also allowed us to stop for a two and a half hour visit at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center.

I am barely able to put into words the poignancy of this memorial and museum. Made up of artifacts, video footage, sound bites, photographs and more, it’s an emotionally riveting multimedia journey chronologically through the events of that day that changed the lives of nearly every American it touched. My oldest daughter wasn’t born until 2004, so, to my children, the events of that day are merely pages in their history books or stories that we recount of “where we were when the first tower was hit.”

But the day we toured that museum, I think something in them changed. They saw our tears and the tears of the other patrons, the somber attitude as no one smiled for the pictures that were being snapped, the gravity of the words imprinted on the walls. 

I watched my oldest daughter read one particular quotation in the room documenting the actions of those individuals who were forced with the tragic decision to jump to their own deaths rather than be burned and crushed by the collapsing of the towers. I tear up even now, as I reread it:

“She had a business suit on, her hair all askew. This woman stood there for what seemed like minutes and then she held down her skirt and jumped off the ledge. I thought, how human, how modest, to hold down her skirt before she jumped. I couldn't look anymore.”

I can’t get that out of my head. I could tell that quotation shook Kayla. We talked about it later. She said, “The whole museum does this…but what that person said about that lady holding her skirt when she jumped. Those were real people. Not just words in a book. I can’t believe that actually happened.”

That’s the odd thing about life. The farther removed we are from events, that’s all they become – events. The emotion, the humanity tends to gets blurry. We forget to remember. The importance of this memorial is just that: Remember. Feel. Honor.

And of course, your trip to the city isn’t complete if you haven’t been yelled at or honked at by a New Yorker. Aaron got honked at for bad driving (those of you who have driven with him know I speak truth). I got yelled at for taking too long to cross the street (I was probably twirling in the intersection with my arms out and my face to the sky. Or not.)

Most of our meals were “relatively” cheap (nothing in New York is cheap): breakfast made by an angry short order cook at a deli, lunch at an authentic New York Pizza joint owned by an angry man, and hot dogs off of a cart where an angry man haggled with the vendor over the price of a hot dog. (So much anger over food!) Our big food splurge was at Rockefeller Center for dinner. Our server was not angry, although he seemed a little annoyed when I asked for more water.

And of course I had to make sure my girls got "I (Heart) NY" Hoodies. So we stopped in one of the many tacky souvenir shops along the street. 

Karis also really wanted to buy a little crystal Empire State Building knick knack with her own money. The shop owner was a little nervous as she browsed. (If you know my girl, you know she’s kind of a vibrating ball of energy so his nervousness was warranted). He eyed her cautiously as she perused. He reached his limit as she, while browsing the shelves, absentmindedly but skillfully tossed one small, breakable item into the air with one hand and deftly caught it without looking.  The shop owner snatched it from her and said, “I’ll take that.” Ah, Karis.

We left New York City with full hearts and began the nearly 10 hour drive back home.  Our vacation was truly an adventure we won’t forget.

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