A visit to The September 11th Memorial…A New Yorker’s Tale.

It took me a long time to do this.  Several months ago, The CFO and his wife, The Southern Bomb, were in town with the kids, and I took them to the September 11th Memorial but did not go in.  Actually, I have brought many people to the site since it opened so they could visit, but I refused to go in.  I don’t know what it is, but as many times as I have been down to Lower Manhattan (and I’ve made several trips to Century 21 — the department store, not the real estate agency — across the street from the site), I have never, ever had the nerve to go in.  It is different for people who live in this town versus out-of-towners. Tourists flock to the Memorial, and that’s what it’s there for — it’s a place to visit and pay your respects.  But, for us New Yorkers, it’s more than just a place to visit, it’s a Black Hole in our neighborhood, our city and our lives.

Note to tourists:  It is incredibly disturbing, off-putting, and frankly, sickening, to see someone cheesing it up while leaning on the pools or adjacent to the pools.  Remember, this is not just any place.  It is a memorial and a grave yard.  Have some respect.  It isn’t Disney.

I now see my life in segments, and for this one it is: Before September 11th and after September 11th.  I don’t know if that’s a good way to live, but this is real; it is just how it is, and this is how we all speak.  How many times have you said, “I remember before September 11th…” or “Remember that place that used to be near…(insert number and name of one of the former World Trade Center towers)”?

After so many years, you would think this would be easy.  It took so much to even muster the courage to go in.  Memories of what was came flooding back.  It was such a beautiful autumn morning, with the bluest sky and a hint of a breeze, and it rapidly turned into a horrifying series of events.  My heart hurts.  Literally, my heart feels heavy.  I didn’t lose anyone close to me.  Should I call myself lucky?  But, I did know of a few people who did not survive.  (My friend’s cousin’s name appears in one of the photographs, but I won’t disclose it.  Just remember, they’re more than just names.  They’re people, people who had lives and families.  They were murdered.  Yes, this was mass murder.  Let’s not sugar coat it.)

To locate the name of someone, this is helpful — and so is this.

I remember going through the old World Trade Center complex so many times — the underground shops, seeing the shoe shine guys, the eateries…I can’t believe they’re all gone.  This was an obscenely large place — a concrete city in a city almost, and it turned into an eerie place of destruction and utter devastation.  And now, seeing the place from high above and down below, with a group, was not the best move.

The group fragmented as we went in, and I ended up all alone.  I was one of the last to leave the Memorial, as a police officer came over and said they’d be closing in 5 minutes.  The police officers, the volunteers and the workers were very nice.  But, I was a mess, choking inside. There I was, wandering around by myself.  I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful green grassy patches.  Everything was immaculate.  But then you looked up and noticed the construction on the Trade Center Towers, as well as the Museum (which should open within the next 2 years).  Tower 1 or the “Freedom Tower” is at its completed height.  It is incredible, majestic, awe-inspiring, but something is just so wrong because it confirms this is not the old World Trade Center, and it never, ever will be.

I looked in the middle of both pools — the North and South Pools — the footprints of 1 World Trade Center and 2 World Trade Center, and I had to catch my breath.  You look at the center of these pools and it’s unbelievable.  Then you look at the entire structure and all the water pouring down, and it’s like the structure is weeping…just water, water, water, gushing down the center into the giant hole, and really, it’s almost as if it’s wailing.  Speechless.

You have to understand the perspective of someone who knew this entire area before and to see what it is now from the inside looking out is a bit shocking.  It doesn’t look like it used to look prior to September 11, 2001.  I’m a downtown chick.  Anything below 23rd Street is really my ‘hood.  So, my first visit to the World Trade Center must have been in the mid-80s because I lived in The Village and all points south.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 has been imprinted in my mind.  Silverstein Properties, the developer and leasing agent of the new 2, 3, 4 and 7 World Trade Center, provided a unique opportunity to visit their offices, high in the sky at 7 World Trade Center, before the visit to the Memorial.  They could not have been a more gracious host.

But in a moment of reflection, I wasn’t ready…or maybe I was, but I should never have gone with that group?  I don’t know.  But I feel regret that I hadn’t visited with family when I had the chance a few months ago.  Everything happens for a reason, and just maybe, I was meant to be there on that day, at that time, under those circumstances.

Nu Yawkers are toughies — we are, but a piece of your heart dies inside.

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James Taylor and Carole King sang about it. Whitney and CeCe sang about it. Kermit sang about it. Yes, even Kermit.

I have no idea why this has been on my mind so much lately.  But for some reason, something triggers a thought and I’ll think, ‘I’m lucky’, because even when I’m worrying about God knows what, I realize there are constants that pull me through the rough patches — and one of these constants is friendships.

Saturday night I went out with a friend.  Hmmm… Our history is interesting.  I met her when I moved to London and we were flatmates for a year.  We were ‘friendly’ but not necessarily friends.  There was a bit of an age difference.  After we parted ways as flatmates, that was pretty much it.  Never saw each other again.  Fast forward and somehow she found me last year after relocating to New York City.  Would we have anything in common other than a shared living space more than a decade ago?  Turns out, her personal life is changing in a major way, and without divulging the gritty details, she’s learning a lot about herself.  As she puts it, she’s learning about “being a strong, independent woman”…something she somehow sees in me?…Hm.  Anyway, back then before our lives crossed, I’d made a huge life change — a drastic decision, moving lock, stock and barrel suitcases 3,400 miles to London — leaving employment, domicile and vehicle behind.

So, she’s going through a rough patch…and she needs a friend, and I know where she’s coming from.  And she’s lucky because she has a support system, and I’ll try very hard to be a friend because I admire her.  She’s intelligent, funny, just an all-around nice person, and I feel I’m really getting to know her — because before I didn’t.  We’re both also older, and with age, comes maturity.  I see that in her now; I didn’t see that before.  We simply had nothing in common.

Now, that gets me thinking again…Can you develop more than just a surface friendship later in life?  (She’s made it clear that she’d like to hang out more…do stuff together…go on girls weekend trips.  Hm.)  Silly question, perhaps, but wouldn’t you think that at a certain point you have your dearest friend — your ‘BFF’, or core group — your clique, so to speak, so do you really need more friends?

Out of the handful of friends I have, there is simply one person on this planet that I trust, who I consider ‘family’.  Our friendship has lasted almost 20 years.  I’ve come to realize, this is a long time, especially since we didn’t meet each other until adulthood.  It wasn’t like we grew up together or lived in the same neighborhood as children, went to school together or our parents knew each other.

After much introspection, I believe our friendship has lasted and is genuine because there is a mutual respect. With that respect comes honesty and knowing that that person ‘has your back’.  When life gets busy, we don’t talk as often as we’d like, but when we do, you’d never know it.  It’s like we pick up right where we left off.

My mother, aunts and their friends (females), all seem to have these types of long-lasting relationships.  I was starting to wonder if it was a generational thing, but it seems it isn’t.  It’s a human thing.  People get close to and stay close to those they admire, respect and trust.  That’s it.  Is there more to it than that?

What are your views on friendship?  It is easier for men or women?  And for the women out there, is there one friend or a group of friends that you’ve latched on to that you see more than just friends and actually think of as family?  (Well, as long as it isn’t one of those dysfunctional families that end up on an afternoon talk show…)

Friendships…

James Taylor and Carole King sang about it.  Whitney and CeCe sang about itKermit sang about itYes, even Kermit.  (I love that amphibian.)  The friendship relationship is a pretty special thing.