I Will Never Forget… 9-11

Torri-di-luce-a-New-York

Fourteen years ago, I made my way to New York city for the first time. I had dreamed of visiting for years, and decided to visit my brother who was attending college nearby in New Jersey. That week was one of the best times of my life, and I know that this trip meant a lot to my brother as well. I went to many of the great tourist attractions, took into the spirit of NYC, ate lots of NYC pizza and hot dogs from every street vendor I could, and I got to attend my first New York Yankees baseball game. I maybe from Chicago, but I love New York!

I grew up in a household watching the U.S. Open tennis tournament every year. I heard stories from my Dad who had visited NYC many times, including as a youngster with my grandfather. A frame photo of the New York City skyline hung in our living room and still does today. I would always ask my Dad about the different buildings as a child, and he got a booklet from a NYC colleague so he could better show me and teach me their names. I knew where the different ports were, which river was the East and which was the Hudson. I knew the different bridges: the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, the Manhattan bridge, and the Brooklyn bridge. I knew the Empire State building, the Chrysler building, and the World Trade center, also know as the Twin Towers.

I, like most Americans, remember how my day started and what happened on September 11, 2001. I was getting ready to go to a new job, getting dressed and checking the news. I saw them report that the World Trade Center had been hit, and I saw the smoke pluming from one building, then the other. I remember my Dad calling the house from work, telling us to turn on the TV if we hadn’t already. I remember the shock, what was going on? How could this happen? Was my brother, across the river in Jersey City going to be safe?

I was in the world Trade Center five months earlier, with my brother and a friend, looking out on one of the world’s greatest cities from the observation deck. I spent a lot of time walking around that area, and have many pictures taken of and from the World Trade Center. I remember thinking, wow, I could have been in those building when this shocking, unbelievable, and very tragic event happened. I wasn’t, but so many other people were. They all got up that day just as I had, and their lives were changed forever. Many people lost family and friends that were in those buildings, working, trying to rescue people, or just visiting New York City. They died due to a horrible tragedy that I hope never happens to our country ever again. One of my brother’s dearest friends lost his father that day.

My brother and his friends helped out by loading supplies in the boats that cross the river to the NYC side. He said that they had to get their minds off what happened and wanted to do something to help. The shock and horror of what happened took a backseat to their desire to be part of the solution. They cheered on and gave their time to the firefighters and other workers that were now searching for people at Ground Zero to boost their morale and express their appreciation. I will never know exactly what that experience was like for my brother, who later moved across the river to Manhattan. He sent us wonderful pictures capturing the spirit of NYC fighting back and banding together, one of which made it into a 9-11 commemoration book.

I visited Ground Zero in May 2002 while I was in NYC for my brother’s college graduation. It was indescribable. Those tall, strong buildings with the beautiful view of the city were not only gone, but an ugly, gaping hole in the ground with the remainder of the debris was left in its place. There were makeshift memories surrounding the area, poster of lost loved ones, posting of thank you for the people around the world who felt New Yorkers’ and Americans’ pain. It was an overwhelming scene and I was overcome with emotion, but glad that I had my memories. Even today, seeing pictures of the World Trade Center evoke feelings of happiness, sadness, and wonder about the why and how of what happened. The perpetrators and their accomplices, whoever they may be, destroyed a great American Icon but they didn’t destroy my memories.

Courtesy of allposters.pt
Courtesy of allposters.pt

My family went to the 9-11 memorial in Chicago on September, 11, 2002, and my brother was temporarily living with us while he figured out his next steps. Brother happened to be interviewed by a local news affiliate, and said that he had not talked about 09-11-01 since it happened. He came alive talking about NYC coming together and about supporting the rescue workers with a spirit of fight and courage – I saw something special in him that day, and was very proud.

I will always remember 9-11-01. I am grateful as an American for the brave men and women who rose to the occasion to help, rescue and, ultimately sacrifice themselves so that others might live. I am grateful for those, like my brother and his friends, who got stronger and reached out to others when they could have stood by. I am grateful for the police and firemen throughout America who go to work everyday to rescue, protect and help others, with the knowledge that their lives could be at risk and sacrificed. There are tragedies throughout our country every day, but I pray that we will never face another day like September 11, 2001.

© 2015 bogdaysofchrell

Tourist Trap ~ NYC

Rock CenterIn response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt from 02/21/15: “Tourist Trap.”

One of my favorite tourist traps is New York City. As I am sure you figured out already, I am a Yankee fan! Yankee Stadium in the lights

After a seven year hiatus from NYC, I took a three-day weekend trip in June 2014 to visit my younger brother, who lives near  East Harlem. This was a pretty relaxed mini-vacation and it was meant to celebrate my brother’s birthday, which was great because I got to spend time with him and a few close friends, meet his girl and relax.  I was on a budget so my goal was to have fun but not buy or spend too much, and I succeeded. Too bad the Yankees lost to the Red Sox! In my previous five trips to the other Yankee Stadium I  acquired a perfect winning record and, I have to say, the vibe was not the same as I remember in the older stadium. Still, I enjoyed seeing the sites at the newer stadium, got to see Derek Jeter play in person one more time, and my brother and his friends were wonderful company. Kid, D-Nice and Marvin

Patsy's PizzaSince I haven’t visited my brother or NYC in a while and I had seen many of the big attractions on past trips, one of my objectives was to see my brother’s daily existence – his neighborhood, his commute to work, the places he frequents, and reacquaint myself with a few of his friends whom I met the year prior when they visited Chicago, as well as play a little tennis. I was very lucky in that the weather was beautiful, my flights were on time and that my brother and I got to really hang out, eat good food and talk, which is not the same over the phone.  My first choice of food was pizza because, regardless of what Texans think, they don’t really know about good pizza. We ventured to Patsy’s Pizza (2287 1st Ave NYC 10035, http://thepatsyspizza.com/), as my brother gave me a walking tour of his neighborhood. We were starving by the time we ate, and I thought it was the best pizza I had eaten in awhile.  If you are in the area, check them out!

RFK Bridge near my brother's place
RFK Bridge near my brother’s place

One thing I didn’t get a chance to do on previous NYC trips was play tennis at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY. Being a tennis player for most of my life, I have watched on TV many great U.S. Open matches, and I was very excited when my brother suggested that we book a court. The rental courts serve as the practice courts during the U.S Open and you are able to walk through the grounds, see outside of the large stadiums, the statues and take in the scenery. USTA statue While I am no longer at my best, we had a great time on the court on a beautiful day and we will both cherish the opportunity to have played where the greats play. I enjoyed soaking in some of the tennis history, reading the list of champions, seeing photos and walking through a bit of Corona Park. I think I even saw the concession stand where George Constanza ate his sundae! As we made our way from the subway, I caught a peak of Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, and we took a few pictures by the Homerun Apple that had been a fixture in the old Shea Stadium. Court 17

Armstrong stadium

There is no shortage of places to eat any and every type of food you can imagine, but I can always eat breakfast food and pizza. For breakfast on Sunday morning, my brother and I ventured over to Fetch Bar and Grill, a dog themed-restaurant that partners with Animal Haven to find homes for dogs and cats. The food was good and reasonably priced, and the service was fast and friendly. If it had fit into our schedule, Fetch seemed like it would have been a fun place to grab a drink. Another place we stopped in passing was Pie Face, where I picked up a little birthday dessert for my brother. They had a great supply of mini-pies in many varieties, and upon looking them up, was sad to learn that they closed most of there NYC locations. However, I came across Two Little Red Hens (An American Bakery), which I would like to visit for a dessert on a future trip. Created with Nokia Smart Cam

While I don’t have a return date in mind, New York City remains one of my favorite places to visit. I experienced a lot of the big attractions on my first two trips, and feel fortunate to have seen the view from the top of the World Trade Center five months before 09/11/01. The view was absolutely beautiful, and on my second trip, unfortunately, I saw the personalized memorials and  the last of the ruble and debris being removed. 

courtesy of latitudeslife.com
courtesy of latitudeslife.com

One of the reasons I like NYC so much is that you can find whatever it is that you are looking for –  shopping, culture, art, sports, music, food, indoor activities, outdoor activities, and all walks of life. One suggestion I would make: with a budget, target a few places or activities on your must-do list and plan for them.  Some events and tours required advance purchase of tickets or fill up fast. I have had fairly regimented trips but been flexible and it has worked well.  New York City is one of the major cities that sells a pass that enables you to visit multiple museums and tours for a flat fee rather than paying at each place, including the Guggenheim, the Top of the Rock, MoMA, Metropolitan Museum of Art and 70+ more places. 

Times Square

Long Island City

 I would personally recommend each of those places, as well as South Street Seaport, the Empire State building, the Staten Island Ferry and the Roosevelt Island tramway, and Yankee Stadium, which I have seen over 6 different trips. My only wish about this last trip was that, other than the Yankees game I didn’t plan much and then learned about places that my brother and I would have enjoyed… I guess they will be on my NYC tour.

© 2015 blogdaysofchrell

* All pictures unless noted are posted courtesy of Chrellie

Me and my brother