I went on a pilgrimage earlier this week, the timing was right, I’ve thought about it for years. I took the train to Ground Zero, New York’s Water fountain memorial for the victims of September 11th attacks. The towers fell, the souls rose, that was and IS sacred ground. Life stopped. But life has moved on 20 years now. Yes 20…. I am sure same could be and has been written about Pearl Harbor, Gettysburg, Oklahoma City, and thousands of other mass graves of death and quick rises to next. Terrorism or war or genocide or “just the way it is” it’s still death decided by others. How HORRIBLE.
I will tell this story for the rest of my life, I know where I was and what I was doing on 911. I turned on the TV after the first plane hit, before the second. I remember that I would have first thought accident then thought terrorism… I was glued to the TV but my daughter was screaming to be fed, 6 week old preemie waiting for my routine to stop and nursing to begin. She by being my focus forced me to keep going. I nursed her but I can say that being a mom in the moment nursed me back to reality and that we can’t stop what is needed, life moves forward. 9-11 is a horrible day – but there was another day after it and another, life is forever. Let us keep moving.
With Saturday 9/11/21 just a week away, I appreciated the easy only hour and a half train ride to travel there – I had to go – to see the place – to feel the setting – to see how they have moved forward and where they (and we) will NEVER FORGET. My goal always was to be there with my daughter too. She took a train from campus and met me there, we got to see the 9-11 memorial, the Oculus train station, and of course the new beautiful tall Freedom Tower. My daughter is the competent traveler – preemie no more – 20 year old BOLD. To say life moves on and moves fast is an understatement.
Growing up from Ground Zero was LIFE – vibrant life – you would not have known the area was piled with debris only 20 years ago. The Oculus train station is most GORGEOUS and BRIGHT, the structure like a bird in flight. The tunnel walls are white and clean – the mall atmosphere was quiet with the lack of tourists this covid year (which actually makes it really easy to get around NYC).
Now as I was SURPRISED at how much LIFE that I felt at the 9-11 memorial, life instead of death, it was not from coldness or forget. I have teared up a few times watching a Netflix documentary but not at all in the actual place. Why? Life went on, as the victims would have wanted. All in All, I felt no death. Yes, I had the pause of remembrance, especially when I saw the close-by Fire Station 10, but my scan of emotions did not include any dread of my pilgrimage – I would go again in a heartbeat. It was a needed pilgrimage to honor the memories- a must see for so many – so many compelled to be there – and the memorial was truly powerful and healing. The water flowed and the names surrounded the two artistic pools. Touching the names was touching for my soul. The weather beautiful and the people sweet and real. The photos – the endless photos – so compelling to take – I even volunteered to take a few group photos of other families – that was and is one of my favorite things to do in life. I love seeing people loving life.
The death was not there – but yes the sight of the fire company tugged at my heart strings – the commitment they showed and the dedication and camaraderie were all felt there. Perhaps I did not feel death because I was in the midst of this renewing life moment – one of my own life moments too with my daughter with me.
I can say we are not “moving on” or “moving away” from 9-11 but instead GROWING on – GROWING UPON – 9-11 – building upon our memories and vowing to make better ones.
The water sound was life-giving. There is a beautiful display of a “Survivor tree” that survived and was removed to be given a chance for life – and now that it is returned, it THRIVES. The new building towers beautifully and the renovated other WTC buildings shine – with one more still in renovations. There is even a colorful beer garden with that modern recycled CHIC. I took so many pictures and I had to write about the LIFE I saw loved and lived in.
I was delighted in the shadow of the tower with seeing a class of kids – all geared up and doing skateboard jumps down the railings and stairs – cool – not vagabond teens but like an actual class with helmets and kneepads – and this was the joy of the jump! They were middle schoolers at most – the colorful background could only barely touch their excitement – I loved it.
As life was blooming all around me, I started with walking to St Paul’s chapel just across from the modern buildings was this contrast in a classic old graveyard and stone church – its history from much before any Wall Street or WTC envisioned. It sat silent and locked up tight but a testament to a strong presence of history of people of faith
Walking to find the water, I cut thru the Winter Garden building just south of the tower as its arching glass structure intrigued me – I found more life with palm trees and people – the Upper Bay docks – and the boats were IMPRESSIVE and of course so was the Lady of Liberty sitting ready in the water to guide and inspire. Ellis Island and the Brooklyn Bridge were way in the distance but I really noted that I saw the New Jersey Railroad building which I had visited on the Jersey City side last spring. This is where the people who were processed out of Ellis Island started their real new journeys out into America – on the train – the Central Jersey Line – 7 of 8 of my great grandparents came thru Ellis Island and would have seen the same Lady giving them HOPE. I found a shady spot of a closed restaurant and a power outlet – 20 minutes I people watched and wrote on my hand and gathered camera juice to keep going. I loved being content without a time schedule for myself – waiting for my phone and eating my apple and peanut butter from home stowed in my pocket – for I found the ONLY electricity plug accessible in all of lower Manhattan, 20 minutes and 20% battery later I was good to go. Yes, loving being outside – loving being alive – and thriving. I took my camera back to retrace my steps and gather the photos of my head. And yes, more of that beautiful tower and the Oculus. I scaled the side walkway towards the Koenig Sphere – I knew I had seen it before – and I had as they took it from WTC to Battery Park for years while they were rebuilding the area – it was 20 tons of art – battered but intact – it’s battle scars showed but were not showcased as the view was still beautiful. There is a photo online of how the sphere stands tall among the rubble – really remarkable it was not crushed.
That is a good way to sum up this day and this memorial and these people and this life – we are perplexed but not crushed – fittingly scripture to say that our faith and our power is not from us but from an internal source too powerful to crush. The HOPE in this garden was real. The love was real. The memorial was real. But most importantly the power of LIFE was real…
I can not say that people have moved on or moved forward and left this place to the history books – but that we – all of us – in LIFE – WE GROW FORWARD. Let us BUILD upon these memories and times as we continue to see not the destination but the JOURNEY.
God Bless our Heros of the day – God bless and keep those innocent victims in your Hand, Lord – Lord, please let us not see this destruction again. Please let us share LOVE to overtake all hate. Please Lord.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.