Lofts, Crabcakes and Memorials

It’s not a loft.  But as long as the neighbours are not within earshot, we call it one.  The neighbours know we are not in a loft and may not realise our pretentious banter is in jest.  It looks and feels like a loft though, so that’s what we call it, usually in our best “proper” accent!  Karen spends half of her week here and the other half at her home in New Jersey.  That leaves me to hang out in solitude for half of each week for the next month, and with a housemate to socialise with on the other half of each week.

Yesterday I took my solitude nowhere, choosing to laze in the loft all day.  It was blissful but not without a little guilt, knowing that I could have been exploring the streets of New York.  My guilt was appeased by the justification that having a loft experience is a part of this visit to New York.  I did take some rubbish down into the basement, sharing the lift with one of the neighbours who lives in an apartment which takes up the whole floor, so when the lift door opened, I was standing in their apartment until the door closed again!  That experience alone gave some interest to my day!

Today I made myself leave the loft.  Walking out into minus 1°C the air rushed through my bones until the exercise warmed me up.  The loft is about 20 blocks from Ground Zero, which was my destination.  Stopping at a characteristic corner restaurant I had my first of hopefully many crabcakes for lunch.  Crabcakes are the best American food ever!

Then I made my way on down to Ground Zero which has been transformed into a national monument consisting of a memorial park with two memorial pools of water cascading down into the footprints of where each of the Twin Towers once stood.  The ledges bordering each pool have the name of each victim inscribed into them.  That’s almost 3,000 names.  Underneath this park is the Memorial Museum, described by their own website as being located “within the archaeological heart of the World Trade Center site”.  It was a moving tribute to the victims and heroes of September 11.  Remnants from the devastation are displayed like modern sculptures.  The museum teaches about the architecture and purpose of the Twin Towers (“a soaring tribute to architectural ingenuity”, built to promote peace through trade) and the ramifications this terror attack has had on the world since 2001.  I came away educated about the events, moved by the stories, awed by the underground architecture and impressed by the multimedia exhibits.

Probably the most moving of all the stories touched upon in the Museum, are those of the First Responders.  The emergency calls began during a shift change at Ladder Company 3 and so there were two shifts who responded from this fire station, whose damaged truck forms an exhibit within the Museum.  While civilians descended the stairwells of the Towers, Ladder Company 3, along with hundreds of other firemen and emergency responders, climbed into the Towers.  It is known that Ladder Company 3 reached the 35th floor of the North Tower by 0921am.  After reporting that burns victims and others were on their way down the stairs, the commander was heard to say “Three truck, we are still heading up”.  That was the last anyone heard of the eleven men from Ladder 3, who perished when the North Tower collapsed.

A piece of steel suspended off the wall in the Museum once extended between the 96th and 99th floors of the North Tower.  At this display I heard about a man from the New York City Police Department’s Emergency Services Unit who knew two NYPD officers had been trapped in the wreckage since the first tower fell earlier that day.  “To get to them we made our way through burning wreckage and twisted steel beams, toward a person waving a flashlight.  We squeezed through openings so small we had to take off all of our equipment to fit through.  It was incredibly hot and smokey.  The men were buried so deep and their injuries so severe that we were afraid they wouldn’t survive the rescue attempt.  There was barely enough room for one person so we took turns working to get to them.  We had to use our bare hands to dig and scrape away the rubble.  The heat was unbearable.  We could hear firefighters up above yelling for us to get out.  We refused to give up and decided to stay regardless of the consequences.  We were ready to give up our lives.  There was no way we were leaving them and we weren’t leaving each other.  Did we wanna go?  You better believe we did.  But there was no way any of us could go home, hug our kids and look ourselves in the mirror knowing we left these two men, fathers like we were, to die.  We finally freed Will around 11pm.  It took another rescue team eight more hours to free John”.

Exiting the museum just before 5pm it was already dark and, to quote Taylor Swift who I listened to on my stride home, the lights were so bright, but they didn’t blind me!

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