Today, is one year since we departed for our three-week European vacation (Sept 11, 2016). Our first stop was a layover in New York City and it happen to fall on the 15 year anniversary of 9/11. I wasn’t sure what to expect on such a memorable day. Even if you aren’t a New Yorker, September 11th, 2001 is a day that most people won’t forget where they were, or what they were doing.
We had a red-eye flight and arrived in Newark at 6am on 09/11/2016. We were meeting up and traveling with another couple and they greeted us at the airport bright and early. We had reservations in Times Square for one night and were scheduled to depart late in the evening on 09/12. We gathered our bags, figured out the train schedule, and made our way into Manhattan. 13 years had passed since the last time we had visited New York so regardless of being tired, we were anxious to see this beautiful city again.
Luckily, the hotel allowed us to check-in early so we dropped our bags. Every TV in the hotel lobby aired the memorial service that was about to begin at Ground Zero. The memorial service was by invitation only and we knew the crowds would be overwhelming after the service, so we thought it might be best to visit Ground Zero the next day, before our flight.
It was before noon and it had already been a long day. We had been awake for 24+ hours but we needed to “buck up” and catch our second wind. We wanted to catch a matinée, an off-Broadway show and finally settled on Cagney the Musical at the Westside Theatre. We decided to slowly walk our way from Times Square to the Westside Theatre and made a few stops along the way.
Our first stop was at a local Irish bar. We stopped in for some lunch and found ourselves to be at a local watering hole for New York’s Policemen and Firemen. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what the atmosphere was going to be like considering the memorial service had ended about an hour prior. To our surprise, the informal gathering seemed to a celebration of life for those lost and reason for everyone to catch up. It didn’t seem to be a time of mourning, but an opportunity for everyone affected to appreciate what they still have. We finished our lunch and continued our walk to Westside Theatre.
We crossed 9th Ave and there were a bunch of police cars and barricades everywhere. At the time, it seemed strange because either something just happened, or something was going to happen. To our surprise, a motorcycle rally was about to begin to remember the fallen. At first, we thought it was going to be a parade of some sort but it was soon obvious that this was no parade. Over 2,000 motorcycles rode past us to honor the fallen and to support First Responders. It was so moving and an experience I will #neverforget.
After witnessing the historic motorcycle ride, we arrived at Westside Theatre to catch our show. Cagney was my first off-Broadway experience and it did not disappoint. Watching a musical inside a building built-in 1890 just adds to the ambiance. After the show ended, we were starting to fade and made our way back the hotel.
Our hotel had a rooftop observatory so we wanted to catch a glimpse of the city lights. We made our way to the top after sunset and had a perfect view of the Tribute in Light. The Tribute in Light is when high-powered lights illuminate the Manhattan skyline to represent the Twin Towers on every 9/11. I wish we had a better camera to capture these amazing lights but even a picture can’t describe the feeling you get when you are in the middle of it all.
We woke up the next morning and had breakfast at the beautiful Millennium Broadway Hotel. There is so much energy in Times Square. It’s fun to be in the middle of it all! We still had the whole day to explore New York before our late night departure to London. I was determined to visit Ground Zero so we got an Uber ride from Times Square and the fare was reasonable at approximately $12.00.
Once we arrived at Ground Zero there was absolute silence, except for the sound of the cascading water down the North and South Pools, the footprints of the Twin Towers. The names of the 2,983 men, women, and children who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 are inscribed in bronze around the waterfalls. Simply, a gorgeous memorial. The Freedom Tower stands at 1,776 feet tall to the north of previous towers and is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the sixth tallest building in the world. It’s no coincidence that the height of the Freedom Tower also represents the same year in which the Declaration of Independence was signed.
We finished our day in visiting the Soho neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. We explored boutiques, small bakeries, and restaurants before our departure overseas. 36 hours in New York is surely not enough.
I’m so glad we were able to visit during 9/11 but I think most would agree that we wish the tragic events never happened in the first place. It seems that New Yorkers have healed but they will Never Forget.
Do you have any travel related experiences during September 11th? Share in the comments below.