A place of great sadness, but also of hope which shows the true resilience of the New Yorkers!
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Can you believe it’s almost twenty years to the day since that tragic morning on Tuesday 11th September 2001? We all remember where we were the moment we found out what had happened. For me, I was enjoying my last week of the summer holidays before starting my second year of college. Then my brother called me from work, telling me to turn on the news! That’s when everything turned upside down? New York has been attacked? Planes had flown into buildings? Was I hallucinating? But sadly, as I sat and watched these events unfold, I soon realised that this was very real. Even now, when I see news footage from that day, it still makes me sick to my stomach.
A few years later, I went on a class trip to New York City organised by my university. Despite being a little nervous about visiting here after what transpired in 2001, we soon put that out of our minds as we looked forward to exploring the streets of the Big Apple!
A few months later, we had finally arrived in New York! It was just as exciting, loud and fun as I expected it to be, and I got to see all the major sights. However, the day before I flew home, I figured it was about time to visit the site of the former Twin Towers. It had been around two-and-a-half years since I watched the 9/11 terrorist attacks unfold live on TV with the rest of the world, so I thought I would be somewhat prepared for my visit here. Some uni classmates and I arranged to go one afternoon. We jumped into an iconic yellow cab, chatting all the way there, and we were feeling rather jovial!
Though as soon as we got out of the taxi, the mood became instantly quiet and somber. We followed the signs to the World Trade Centre, which was just around the corner. It was a sight that will stay with me forever. After two-and-a-half years, the whole area still looked like a construction zone! Most of the buildings in the area were closed off, still covered in a thick layer of soot and dust from the towers collapsing. There were too many smashed windows to count. Some buildings were so badly damaged they had to be covered in a thick black mesh to stop rubble from falling onto the street. It was done in an attempt to make the area safer and to try and get back to a degree of normality. The whole scene was incredibly upsetting.
Since the site was still very much in the clean-up stage, there was no real memorial set up at the time, so people had stuck posters onto the fences to remember those who had died. It was like a makeshift wall of remembrance. Like us, many people had gone that day to pay their respects or lay flowers for those who lost their lives. There was fencing set up around the site and when I got close enough, I finally saw the giant gaping hole where the Twin Towers once stood, and I just felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck! Despite having seen it on TV countless times, nothing could have prepared me for the emotion I felt as I stood there that day. It was a genuinely moving experience.
In 2006, I was back in New York again, and this time I was eager to see the progress that had been made at Ground Zero (This was the name given to the site after the collapse of the Twin Towers). After arriving in the city the night before, it was too late to go, so I decided to get a good night’s sleep before going first thing in the morning.
The next day, I jumped in a cab and headed down to the site. When I got there, I was completely blown away! It looked like a different area. The thick layer of dust was gone, there was no black mesh covering the buildings, and the broken windows were nowhere to be seen. The former site of the World Trade Centre had been completely rejuvenated and looked almost as good as new. The difference was incredible! The huge gaping hole left by the collapse was still there, but only a small amount of debris now remained.
There was now a temporary memorial to the people who lost their lives, which had been erected on the site with the fallen victims’ names. This actually made me cry. It was very upsetting, as acts of terrorism bring so much grief and loss. The New Yorkers’ spirit is strong though, and they will never forget what happened here on 11th September 2001. The fallen will always be remembered. It’s good to see that everyone has chosen to return to normal, and not let the extremists win.
After returning from my second trip to New York, a decision was made to build a new skyscraper on the site. The building was completed in 2014 and aptly named the Freedom Tower. It now fits in perfectly with the cities stunning skyline. I can’t wait to go back one day and see it in the flesh.
Lastly, don’t forget to check out the new 9/11 Museum built here as a tribute to the victims, their families, the firefighters, and the police (Click here to book tickets through VIATOR). It tells some of the heroic stories from that horrific event and helps to educate us on how and why this tragedy happened. It’s also a great up-yours to terrorism!
180 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10007, USA | http://www.911memorial.org
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