When the humidity finally woke me up in the hostel, it was around 11am (I had to ask scary hostel-buddy #1, since I didn’t have a watch anymore at this point). I felt a little hungover, but nothing compared to the morning before back in YVR. I thought about showering, but my I-need-to-get-the-hell-out-of-the-hostel-as-soon-as-possible thought process eventually won. I strolled down the street in New York City, smiling as I walked into Ray’s Pizza, knowing full well I was about to destroy his little toilet in the back-room with my post-hangover blues. I read through my Lonely Planet for a few minutes, trying to decide where I was going to spend my first full day in New York, and eventually settled on Lower Manhattan.
I had originally thought I would walk all the way there, but after 20 minutes of walking in the drizzling rain, I realized it would take about 3 hours to get there at the rate I was going. I was scanning the area for a subway station when I looked up and saw the Empire State Building for the first time.
I then managed to find a subway station, and shuttled myself southwards, eventually getting off near City Hall. I wasn’t really sure where to go at this point. I knew I wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. I walked a few blocks, and saw the intersection of Park Place and Broadway. For some reason, I thought this was cool, maybe because it reminded me of Park Place and Boardwalk in Monopoly.
In Lower Manhattan, the skyscrapers are so larger that it’s sometimes hard to tell what time of day it is, or if it’s sunny or not. So as I was walking, I was immediately drawn to an area that was full of light. Some part of me actually knew where I was heading, since logically there is only one area in Lower Manhattan that shouldn’t have any buildings present. So when I turned the corner and saw the Subway sign read “World Trade Center”, I knew I was at Ground Zero.
There aren’t really enough words to describe what it’s like to actually be at this spot. I remember being at work in building A at JDS Uniphase in Ottawa, and a guy named Jim said “did you hear that a plane just hit the World Trade Center?” I didn’t really understand completely the magnitude of what was happening, but when the second plane hit, and I saw the news pouring in on CNN, I left work and went to Boston Pizza across the street where they had a TV. I saw both towers fall in real time. I saw the reports of the Pentagon being hit, and the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. When my family was waking up in Chilliwack, most of September 11th was already over on the east coast, and thousands of people had already lost their lives that day.
So being there brought back how it felt that day in Ottawa, watching people plummet to their deaths, voluntarily jumping out of windows to avoid the flames. If you dig deep on the internet, you can read about the things most people don’t want to know, like how the burning jet fuel came down the elevator shafts, igniting all the people in the lobby while they had their coffees or waited for the next lift. I definitely got a bit teary-eyed standing here thinking about that day.
Ground Zero is now a memorial, where many people come to remember that day. There are posters showing the timeline of events, and a plaque with every person’s name who died in the attacks. It was a bit sad to see tourists laughing and posing in front of Ground Zero for family photos, but maybe everyone grieves in their own way, or needs to remember a bit differently.
Looking through the Iron gate around Ground Zero shows that hardly anything is left, and that work is slowly starting on the replacement tower.
I headed south to Battery Park, and boarded the boat for the Statue of Liberty. It’s a pretty cool one hour ride (complete with about one hour worth of waits) that gives you access to the Statue, Ellis Island (which used to be the immigration hub for NYC), and a great view of Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge from the water. I chose not to get off the ferry at the Statue of Liberty, since it looked like it would add another hour worth of waiting to the day, and I just wasn’t in the mood.
Since you’re not allowed to get up into the Statue anymore, I didn’t really think I was missing out on too much.
On the way back, I took a few shots of Lower Manhattan. Unfortunately, with the rain and fog, none of my really sweeping shots turned out, but I got an up close one when the ferry docked.
I walked back to City Hall along the water, catching a glimpse of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, and passing by Wall Street, the heart of the financial district. At this point, I was hot, hungry, damp and sweaty, so I decided to head back to the hostel for a breather, a shower, and a change of clothes. I grabbed the first subway I could find heading north, and was pleasantly surprised when it took me to Grand Central Station. From here I walked back to the hostel.
After resting at the hostel for thirty minutes or so, I decided to go for a walk and see where it took me. What’s funny is that even though Aiden and Dave told me where they were staying, in my drunken stupor I completely forgot, and just assumed I probably wouldn’t see them again. So I was completely surprised when I heard an Irish accent beside me “look Aiden, it’s Duane!” Which reminds me of another interesting story. When Aiden first heard I was from Vancouver, he asked me, in a thick Irish accent, “so, you must know the Groover then?” I said “no, who’s the Groover?” Aiden says “you know, the Groover from Vancouver”. I said, “uh no, I have no idea who the Groover from Vancouver is.” He was completely surprised, since the Groover from Vancouver, known to me as Bryan Adams, is apparently still rather big in Ireland. I hung out with these guys for a few minutes, and promised to catch up with them a bit later for a beer.
As I walked around, I looked at in the sky and caught my first glimpse of sun breaking through the clouds. Since it was about 6:30pm, I thought it would be really cool to get some shots of the sun setting while watching from the Empire State Building. I did my best, but unfortunately my timing was wrecked by the long lines inside the ESB, and when I finally made it to the top, it was rather dark.