I am in NYC this week, I arrived at the weekend - great flight with American Airlines - they even bumped me to business class which was great. Unfortunately we had a 3 hour wait at customs due to the fact that my passport is new but the flight was great. www.aa.com
Got to my hotel in the city, stayed at the maritime which was awesome, superb pillows, comfortable bed and the staff were very friendly. www.themaritime.com - I booked it with hoteltonight.com who do get some of the best rates if you can book last minute.
Ollie called me at 6am to let me know he was struggling with his homework so after 15 minutes of pretending to be awake (he thought I was 6 hours ahead, not behind) we called it a day deciding instead that Google would make more sense than me. Instead of going back to sleep however I ventured out in to NYC at 6:30am to get breakfast and have a walk around.
I made my way down to the financial district and eventually came across the 9/11 memorial, I lived in the states a few years ago when the word trade centre was hit the first time round, I think it was around 1994 - a bomb had exploded in the car park underneath one of the towers and caused enormous damage but obviously failed to bring the tower down. I remember at the time thinking how terrible it would be if one of the towers did ever come down.
To then watch (with 2 billion others) both towers collapse a few years later was shocking to say the least, completely surreal.
Walking around the memorial which is mostly underground like the Louvre in Paris it struck me as odd that the site would be turned into a museum but I suppose it is no different to the WWII memorials and museums I have visited in France and Belgium.
If watching it on TV was surreal then I had no idea how being upfront with it all would feel and whilst at first I was a little hesitant to go ahead with the visit I decided that as I was in NYC and it was September I should go ahead nevertheless.
Something that jumped out at me from the very start was the number of emergency services personnel that responded to the crisis and ventured in to both towers and as a result perished - these guys were going up whilst everyone was coming down - they were going up because they knew people at the top had no way of getting down and needed help. I wonder how scared they felt? Did they know there was a risk it would collapse?
Not much survived the collapse although parts of the planes were found - however another thing that did survive was a part of the antenna at the top which is pictured on the left.
Some of the stuff was very difficult to handle, the "jumpers" video was very very difficult, people jumping out from above where the planes hit. Also, in a room there is a looping video of family members talking about the people who lost their lives.
The memorial does not focus on just NYC but also the other locations that were targeted - the messages people left for loved ones were heart breaking.
I re-emerged in the sunlight to find I had spent almost 2 hours wandering around inside the memorial and spent the rest of the day noticing the best of NYC. In a store uptown where I was buying some shorts a guy was buying a homeless person clothes, in a supermarket a guy was buying cans of soup for a soup kitchen.
I really like NYC - it has a special energy, something I certainly never noticed back in 1994 - it used to come across as quite cold and tough, it was in all the movies all the time and was almost untouchable, almost fairy tale like - perhaps this energy is as a result of 9/11, maybe not - either way there is a gentle, kind nature to the city and the people and it makes you feel like "giving something back" - strangely addictive.