Tuesday, April 13, 2010
September 10th, 2001 (New York, Sept 11, 2001 - Part 3)
It was Monday, September 10th, and with both Heike and Jens working, it was a day on my own to explore the city. I decided to spent most of my time that day in lower Manhattan, and started off by wandering around the World Trade Center. It was a beautiful morning and I had thought of paying to go up to the observation tower, but decided to leave that to another day. I made my way along the water front, and eventually found a place to buy tickets to go to see the Statue of Liberty. The ferry ride out toward the island made for spectacular views of the city skyline. Getting off at the statue, I walked around but decided not to go up to the arm – I’m honestly not good with heights, and having turned around more than once on old, rickety rusting-metal staircases housed in the middle of centuries-old cathedrals, I decided to just avoid anything like that altogether. My interest was actually to get over to the Immigration Museum, which involved catching another ferry. You’ll see in one of the pictures included above, taken from the ferry, the weather was turning fast. The storm sweeping over the city was amazing, and I knew it would soon be hitting us. By the time it made it to us, I was deep into the Immigration Museum, enjoying the displays and especially admiring the old ads used to recruit potential immigrants, particularly from Europe.
A couple of hours later, the museum was closing and it was time to catch the last ferry back to Manhattan. While I was waiting for the ferry to depart, this girl came up to me and, with a distinctly Eastern European accent, asked if I’d be okay with taking a picture of her with her camera. I’ve done this hundreds of times through my travels, but this time was especially funny as she began to direct me to an infinite detail on how to take a good picture! I played along, and eventually handed back the camera. We sat and talked for the entire ride back, and once we hit land again, we just naturally walked around together, talking, not really with a destination in mind.
The weather was cool and rainy, so we decided something hot to drink would be best. It was already early evening, and for some reason we had a terrible time trying to find somewhere that was open. We went underground, poked around the side streets, but couldn’t find anything at all. We eventually found ourselves at the World Trade Center asking the security guards there, and were told there was a good place to get something to drink at the top of the tower in the observation deck. So, with tickets purchased, up we went!
I actually didn't really want to go up. It wasn’t the ideal night - the clouds were low, it was raining, and the outdoor observation deck was closed. I’d never stood outside at that height, and was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to feel what it was like outside at that height.
Once we took the elevator up, we nearly had the place to ourselves, outside of the occasional tourists like us. Even with the weather, it was an amazing view. We walked around, took pictures of each other, talked with a few people working there, and after about an hour or so, took the elevator back to the ground floor. We still didn’t have anything to sip on, but when we left the building, we came across this small restaurant and market – an Amish establishment I think, or the name had the word Amish in it. We stayed for the next couple of hours – talking and getting to know each other. Her name was Kamilla, and she had been traveling through the US for quite a while and was soon leaving New York to head to the West Coast of the US, then home. The conversation was typical of two travelers meeting – we talked about where we came from, what we did in life, where we’ve traveled, all the kinds of things that travelers have in common.
I can’t remember what time it was, but I knew it was getting late and it appeared that the restaurant was about to close. Having made a great connection as two people traveling on their own, we decided to hang out together the next day, a day that was supposed to be her last day in New York. She wrote her name and number on the only piece of paper I could find – my ticket from our entry to the observation deck of the World Trade Center. The plan was to meet up again the next day, around 8:45 am, back at the Trade Center. We also discussed the idea of going back up to the observation deck if the weather was good.
We said a quick good night, and back I went to Heike and Jen’s place. I remember that when I got off my last train and was walking to their apartment, it was still raining, but it was one of those gentle warm rains you never mind walking in. It had been a long and great day of exploration. When I arrived at the apartment, Heike was already sleeping, but Jens was up. I told him about my day, and he laughed, mostly at my chance meeting with this Eastern European girl. Quickly after, I was all wrapped up in my sleeping bag on the floor of the living room, smiling and anticipating yet another adventurous day to come.
Just a quick aside - after all of the events that were about to unfold the next day, I never watched the news or looked at any kind of publication that had anything to do with the attack - I just couldn't watch. Years later though, I was thumbing through a book that was handed to me that was full of photographs of the towers and the destruction of that day, and one picture made me absolutely freeze in my spot. It was taken in the restaurant that we had ended up in, soon after the buildings fell, nearly exactly from the point of view where I'd been sitting that night. Everything was covered in an unimaginable amount of dust and debris. I honestly couldn't believe that it was the spot that Kamilla and I had spent all that time talking and getting to know each other, literally just hours before.