I started my Saturday earnestly: caught up on sleep, did some laundry, went grocery shopping. But you may have also noticed today's infamous date: September 11. And being in New York, having completed my chores, I suddenly felt compelled to do something in remembrance. After all, wasn't it just another normal day like this one when the world came crashing down nine years ago?
I was in Houston sitting in my 11th grade high school U.S. History class when the planes struck the Twin Towers. While we were all riveted by the unfolding tragedy and watched it live on television, the events of 9/11 have never felt quite real to me, so I thought it would be only fitting and revealing to visit Ground Zero where it all happened. On the contrary, however, actually standing on the site, bustling with people going about their daily lives in complete normalcy, made it more surreal. After nearly a decade, there is still no memorial or museum to commemorate the location, much to the chagrin of survivors and families left behind. There was a simple Flag of Heroes display at a field in the lovely Battery Park, which I visited for the first time today. From there I walked up to the site of the World Trade Center, which in contrast is littered with cranes, construction, and a few makeshift banners proclaiming it as a memorial-to-be. Hanging over it all, two powerful beams of light shoot straight up into the night sky like ghosts of the Twin Towers. While it isn't an elaborate or permanent tribute, I did like the illuminated image for its simplicity and power, and it was visible from all corners of Manhattan.
On Pier 40 a few blocks down, the New York Buddhist Church held a floating lanterns ceremony, patterned after the Japanese tradition of sending lights out onto the water in remembrance of the Hiroshima atomic bombings and all victims of war. Kayakers paddled little trains of glowing lanterns through the Hudson River carrying the prayers and wishes of friends and families. But watching the crowd at this event was a bit jarring as well. There were those among the throng who were genuinely moved; I saw several people clinging to each other and sobbing. But the rest seemed to view it as nothing more than a tourist novelty, a spectacle to pass the time while in the city. And I have to admit, I felt like one of those observers as well, as if I was intruding on something intensely personal. New York City on 9/11 is a strange place for a non-native to be because you feel torn between identifying with the collective national tragedy and distinctly sensing your place as an outsider who could never fully understand the magnitude of the loss and sorrow suffered by this city on that day.
My evening wasn't totally solemn, however. I had some great food while in the city, including the legendary Belgian waffles from the famous Wafels & Dinges food cart, which threw down with Food Network chef Bobby Flay and won. Their spekuloos spread, which can be best described as graham cracker and gingerbread cream, is unlike anything I've ever tasted. For dinner, I swung by a little cafe called Bite for a fresh, hot-pressed prosciutto and mozzarella panini, which was yummy but unremarkable; you can't really go wrong given the ingredients. Afterward, I met a friend at King's Head Tavern to watch a 1990's cover band called the Bayside Tigers and had an absolute blast. I had no idea how many of my favorite songs came from the 90's (was it really that long ago?), and we had so much fun dancing into the wee hours of the morning. The second half of the band's act was karaoke, so people could sign up to sing along to the live soundtrack. On the downside, I quickly learned what a nightmare it is attempting to get home on the limited subway system on late nights (my usual 40-minute commute took about two hours), but the hard-learned lesson was worth the rollicking good time.
|Flag of Heroes Memorial Field at Battery Park.|
|A beautiful and patriotic tribute to the heroes of 9/11.|
|Each flag contains the names of emergency services personnel who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, including the FDNY, PAPD, NPYD, EMS, and court officers.|
|The bottom of the flag reads: Now and forever it will represent their immortality. We shall never forget them.|
|A glimpse of the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park.|
|The Jersey shore from Battery Park.|
|The Tribute in Light display shines brightly from a rooftop near Ground Zero.|
|The two beams in the Tribute of Light display represent the Twin Towers.|
|The ghostly light beams of the Tribute of Light over Ground Zero.|
|The yet-uncompleted museum and memorial at Ground Zero.|
|Ground Zero still under construction after nine years.|
|The Tribute of Light over the Hudson River.|
|The decadent liege waffle topped with spekuloos (a creamy gingerbread spread) and strawberries from the famous Wafels & Dinges food cart. Their waffles beat Bobby Flay's in a Food Network throwdown.|
|A prosciutto and mozzarella hot panini with sun-dried tomatoes, chopped basil, and olive oil from Bite.|
|The Bayside Tigers, a 1990's cover band, playing at the King's Head Tavern in Manhattan. It was so much fun, and I had no idea how many of my favorite songs are already over a decade old!|
|During the second half of their show, they invite people to sign up and sing karaoke to their live soundtrack.|
|I quickly learn that the slimmed-down late-night subway schedule = very long waits and multiple transfers. My usual 40-minute commute wound up taking about two hours.|
|I was really bored waiting for for subway, so I do what I always do. I took pictures.|