We recently visited New York City to enjoy the excitement of the holiday season in the "Big Apple" and to spend some time with our daughter, who lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
It was an enjoyable visit with the overflow crowds, holiday excitement and hustle and bustle that you would expect at this time of year. Yet the most moving and memorable moments of the visit had little to do with the holiday season and everything to do with the strength, grit and resilience of this great county of ours and its people.
The first destination of the morning after our arrival was the 9/11 Memorial. We took our subway map, jumped on board the A line and headed down to lower Manhattan with a train full of people on their way to work, shop or wherever. Upon exiting the subway, we climbed back up to street level and walked the remaining several blocks to the memorial.
Photos by Mike Lyons
As we approached our destination, the sounds and sights of major construction surrounded us. So much seems to be going on in this section of Manhattan besides the normal and fast pace of city life.
Suddenly we arrived at the construction barriers, signage and safety-control folks that surround the memorial site. After following signs and asking for guidance, we arrived at the temporary memorial office that provides tickets, if available, free of charge to those who have not reserved them.
The number of visitors who can enter the memorial at any given time is strictly regulated. Thus, we were fortunate to be there early enough to receive tickets for immediate entrance. After following more signs and directions, we entered the actual memorial grounds through a maze of barriers, security checks rapidly forming into lines, which were controlled to allow only the number of visitors in that equaled the number who were leaving.
Once inside, the pace slows and the noise from outside the barriers dims. There is an immediate sense of peacefulness and awareness that this is a very special place for all of us. The design feature of carefully planted trees and well-placed seating makes this very spacious area seem smaller and inviting, offering time to reflect and appreciate where one is. Looking up and out beyond the park perimeter, the skyline is full of buildings under construction or already rebuilt and back in full use.
Yet inside the memorial, one is stepping back in time while approaching the two pools, north and south, that reside on the footprints of the World Trade Center towers.
One is drawn forward by the powerful sound of water, then stands mesmerized by the sheer force and volume of it cascading down the four sheer sides of a pool that waits 30 feet below before rushing to the center and descending again into a black void. The design is stunning - dramatic in its strength and power of the water falling and the sheer size of the pools. It demands one's attention. One cannot escape the moment and is forced to recall those horrific moments of 9/11 and to bear witness.
The 2,977 names of those who died during the Sept. 11 attacks surround the pools. We stopped to say a prayer in memory of Amy King, who was known by so many in our community, and for her family. We must never forget those who died and those left behind whose lives were changed forever.
The memorial, still not complete, also lifts our spirits, puts things in perspective and reminds us that we are so fortunate to live in such a magnificent country. We need everyone who visits New York City or lives in it to see and feel this memorial. It will affirm your commitment to the United States of America.
Mike Lyons is a Jamestown native and owner of Anderson Cleaners.