I spent Labor Day Weekend of 2015 in New York City with my mom and younger sister. And it was a blast! They took the train up from our home in Pittsburgh and I also traveled via train from college in Connecticut. We stayed in the World Center Hotel right by the World Trade Center which was in a great location with a great view of lower Manhattan as well as Ground Zero. Our room was pretty nice, too — small, but what do you expect in New York City? And the terrace at the restaurant was a great place to just hang out, talk, snack, and drink.
So the theme of the trip, according to my mom, was sort of “All-American.” With a focus on and center in Lower Manhattan, we visited the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, The 9/11 Memorial and Museum, One World Trade Center, and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.
On an early September Friday night, Katie (my sister) and my mom (Ann) met me at the subway station by Trinity Church on Wall Street at about 10:30 PM. I was so glad to see them and we talked as we walked the short walk back to the hotel where I was relieved to be able to relax, unwind, and get a good and long night of much-needed sleep.
On Saturday, the next day, we walked over to the 9/11 Memorial which was only about five minutes from our hotel. We were just kind of wandering around, looking at the reflecting pools, and there were employees standing around different places throughout the area. We stopped and listened to this one man talk about his experience on September 11th, 2001 and it was so moving. People have incredible and terrifying stories from that day. He made me tear up a bit (and I cry very easily so of course I was going to cry over something like this). After walking around the memorial, we got our tickets and went inside the museum.
The 9/11 Museum was entirely depressing. And so well done. My favorite part about the whole thing — and what made me cry the most — was a quilted canvas filled with artwork made by a second grade class for New York firefighters and New Yorkers after the bombing. The kids had drawn pictures of the city and its heroes and had written sweet, innocent little notes to the firefighters letting them know that it’s okay that they weren’t able to save everyone. I felt immense sadness and intense anger all at once when I really started to think about the attack on the World Trade Center in that moment. I am very thankful that I was able to visit the site where it happened and I am so proud to be an American. Every American should take the time to take a trip to Ground Zero and feel this as well. Its a meaningful experience.
On a much, much lighter note, that afternoon, we gave ourselves some time before the sun started to set and visited the observatory at the top of the new One World Trade Center. The views were spectacular and the crowds were too. There were tons of people from all over different parts of the world up there, all staring out at the concrete jungle. I personally liked the views better than the Empire State Building’s from a previous trip. You could see everything! The Statue of Liberty was right there below us and we could clearly see Midtown with Times Square all light up and the Empire State Building standing out from the other buildings.
On Sunday, we grabbed some delicious bagels for breakfast and walked over to Battery Park and its pigeons as well as the nearby Brookfield Place and its beautiful architecture. I had never been to this part of New York City and I have to say — I loved it! I thought all the apartments lining the park looked so pretty and welcoming and I would totally live there. The park itself was very pleasant. It was nice just strolling around, people watching and taking some pictures. From there, we took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
The Statue of Liberty. At 19 years old, this was my first time ever visiting it and I was so excited! I felt more than a little bit giddy gazing across the water as Liberty got bigger and bigger and we got closer and closer.
When we docked, my mom, sister, and I clambered off the ferry as quickly as possible and navigated through the crowds. There wasn’t too much to do at the Statue of Liberty other than walk around and explore the island. The tickets to get up to her crown had been sold out when my mom tried to buy them online, so we instead went to her pedestal and to the museum. Our time inside the museum was brief (Katie gets bored very easily). But the views were beautiful and the company was great. We got a German woman (yay! Deutschland!) to take our picture:
I have to say that it was pretty freaking incredible how many foreigners were visiting the monument in comparison to Americans. Everywhere I turned, there was a huge family, speaking a language other than English. Perhaps many of them were Americans as well. But many were foreigners. Its great that they choose to go see the Statue of Liberty rather than just sticking around Times Square, gawking at the flashing lights. It seems that’s about all most of my friends have done when they go to New York City. Of course, this is most certainly not everyone! Maybe its just people I know! My favorite part about visiting the Statue of Liberty was contemplating Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus” about the millions of immigrants who came to the United States through New York City (you probably recognize at least the words in bold):
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Next, we took the ferry to the neighboring island, Ellis Island, where there was actually kind of a lot to see and do. Especially compared to over at Liberty Island.
We watched an interesting film giving historical information about the site, wandered through some exhibits, and listened to a National Park Ranger give his spiel about the place. I was surprised to learn that over 90% of immigrants made it through Ellis Island and into America without a problem. Nothing like today! The park ranger made it seem like the officials at Ellis Island tried their best and put forth extra effort to make sure everyone had the best chance at making it into the home of the free. I just cannot help but think about how different that is from our mindset today. A lot has changed, though, hasn’t it? But a lot of things are still the same… Regardless, I am so glad I got the chance to island that was many people’s gates to freedom and even more grateful that I have been given the chance to think about issues like this.
By Sunday night, I had convinced my mom that the thing to do was walk across the Brooklyn Bridge — something that none of the three of us had done before. It was a ton of fun and offered a great perspective of the city. We wanted to get pizza in Brooklyn, but the places we wanted to go had awful lines so we grabbed ice cream instead and headed back over to Manhattan. Quite a stint in Brooklyn, huh?
Just a weekend in New York was more than enough time for us to see just about a million things. It was a weekend with people I love and I will never forget the fun that we had and the things we saw. Can’t wait to visit again.. next time we’re going museum exploring and to Broadway!