I woke up early on Sunday morning and ate breakfast while watching motorcycles drive past on the street outside. On the bus on the way to NYC, I overheard someone mention something about thousands of motorcycles and I finally figured out what she’d meant. My plan for the day was to visit Ground Zero. I’d never been there and this year was the 10th anniversary. I’d been thinking about going the last time I was in New York, but now I definitely had the time. The question was… how would I get there?
I’d come up with a route on the Subway that the iPad app I downloaded said would work, but when I ran it by a member of the hotel staff, she said one of the lines wasn’t running at all. She suggested I take a different train to a close station and walk over. The idea of walking any more than needed was not a happy one. I was still in serious pain. But I decided to give it a shot. When I got to the station and got to the stop my directions had told me about, the announcement confirmed that I could transfer there and get to the World Trade Center on the lower platform. I headed down there and saw signs that told me that was a transfer point, but only from something like 10pm through 5am. Crap. I crossed my fingers and waited 15 minutes. The first train to come was… heading to WTC! So I made it there after all, with only a minimum amount of worrying.
Walking past the site was a sobering experience. I hadn’t realized how far along rebuilding had come already. I stood for a while, looking at the fence, at the area. The financial district was larger than I’d imagined. And it was definitely the most quiet place I’d ever been in NYC. No one spoke. We all just stood or walked past.
When I got to the big intersection past the tower, I realized the place was packed with people. And not just any people… motorcycle riders. Apparently those thousands of motorcycle riders I’d heard about on the bus and the ones I’d seen that morning had been heading right here, and I’d followed them there, unknowingly. If only I’d been able to hitch a ride with one of them! :-)
I watched their remembrance ceremony for a while, stood there for their moment of silence, and listened to the National Anthem followed by Amazing Grace on the bagpipes followed by taps on a bugle. Apprently the ride and ceremony was an awareness & fundraiser for first responders.
I continued along the path, over the detour bridge, and found myself in Battery Park. On the train, I’d noticed something called the Irish Hunger Memorial there. Being Irish, I thought I had best check that out. I wasn’t sure what it was or where it was, because the detour left me disconcerted. But I headed down the street and saw a giant mound of stone and grass. I was curious as to what that was and how to get to it. There were people riding their bikes along the path inside. I circled around and felt pretty stupid when I realized this was the memorial I’d been hoping to find. It was gigantic and, once I was inside it, unmistakably Irish. Plants, stones, even a recreation of a house. There were quotes on the walls on the way in about the famines and I took the time to read and listen to the recording and admire the plants. It was literally like being in Ireland, but surrounded by NYC buildings. A very neat experience. On the way down, I read that there was supposed to be a spectacular view of the Statue of Liberty from the top. I hadn’t seen her. So I walked back up again and took a look. No spectacular view at all.
When I was back down on the ground, I walked over to the water and found the Statue of Liberty. Apparently the trees had grown significantly and now blocked the view from the monument. I found a playground with a statue of a diricawl! I suspect that it wasn’t a statue and was, in fact, an actual bird pretending to be fake so I wouldn’t realize it wasn’t extinct. It didn’t fool me, but I pretended to play along. I also came upon the Poets House (one of the exhibitors at our next conference). Sadly, it was closed.
I walked back and headed over the bridge just in time to see a whole fleet of motorcycles heading out as well. Perfect timing! I poked around the area, trying to find the way into a Subway station. Instead, I found more than a handful of snarfs.
Eventually, I found my way to the Subway and got back in enough time to stop by Starbucks to pick up second breakfast and an early lunch so I wouldn’t be hungry on the bus ride home.
I met up with my group and we headed to the bus… well, not a station. It should be called an apandoned parking lot full of lines and not enough tents. We got there a little too early. Maybe an hour and a half early. But they actually put us on an earlier bus, because there was room. Very cool.
Due to a pretty heavy rain storm, we lost a lot of time going back. And then we had to stop just outside Baltimore because of a bus that had broken down. I don’t think we had any free seats, though. We got back to DC just about when we would have if we hadn’t taken an earlier bus. On the way home, we drove past the Pentagon, also rebuilt after 9-11. It felt very complete to me, to have seen both the WTC site and the pentagon in the same day.
It felt wonderful getting home. It was a fantastic weekend. I had so many great times with friends and on my own. And even though I couldn’t walk properly for 2 days due to sore feet and pulled muscles, it was totally worth it.