5-16-2016: New York, New York

Today seemed like a really long day because it was. We started out at 07:45 and arrived back at the hotel at 23:00 (11 PM for those of you who don’t understand 24 hour time).

TL;DR We went to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island then to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Then we did a bus tour/entertainment thing and then went up the Empire State Building.

Good Morning NYC

As I said, we started out at 7:45. Our first stop was in Time Square at the bus tour office to get tickets for The Ride, an entertainment/tour bus ride that is included in the New York Pass. The New York Pass includes a wide variety of attractions, one of which is The Ride. While I waited in line, mom went to get tickets for the hop-on hop-off guided bus tours which are also included in the New York Passs. She also grabbed some breakfast for us to eat.

Subway 101

Our next destination was Battery Park station where ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island depart.

Last night we went down into the Penn Station subway stop and bought Subway cards (I didn’t mention that we’d done that last night because it was late and I was tired). We found the nearest subway stop and boarded a train bound for Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan. At the stop right before Battery Park had to get out of our car move up the train to the front because they can only fit the first five cars into the station. The reason for this is that when Hurricane Sandy came through New York, Battery Park station was destroyed and they have only been able to rebuild some of the train.

I’ve decided that I like the London Tube better because it is much better marked as to where to go for certain locations. In London, most of the subway exits were marked with a few landmarks that cold be accessed from that exit. Not so with the New York Subway. We got very confused as to where we were supposed to go to be on the write side of the road when we emerged from the subway.

Lady Liberty

Before being able to board the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, we had to go through airport-style security. I guess it makes sense, because we don’t want anyone coming and blowing up the Statue of Liberty.

It was super windy and very cold, but we made sure that we got seats on the top deck of the ferry to get the best views possible. It was cool coming up to the island and thinking about how the immigrants felt as they came up to the same statue. Lady Liberty shone as a beacon of hope for many people (we heard that over three quarters of immigrants passed through Ellis Island when it was operating as an immigration processing centre).

Arriving at Liberty Island.
Arriving at Liberty Island.

On Liberty Island

We arrived on Liberty Island, the island on which the Statue of Liberty is located, and walked around for a few minutes awaiting the start of a ranger-guided tour. Liberty Island is under the stewardship of the National Park Service and so rangers take care of the grounds. The lady was very nice and explained some of the history, symbolism and importance of Lady Liberty. I will summarize the things I found interesting here.

  • Although the Statue of Liberty was built to symbolize Franco-American unity, there was a hidden message as well. In France, the government was run by the dictator Napoleon Bonaparte. Many private citizens didn’t like Napoleon’s tyrannical policies and created the statue to erect in honor of liberty and send a message to Paris that the French people wanted more freedoms.
  • Some rich guy agreed to pay for the statue if the Americans would provide the pedestal to put it on. The French on the project included Mr. Eiffel of the famed Eiffel Tower in Paris.
  • Funding for the American Pedestal was not very easy to come by. Mr. Pulitzer of the Pulitzer Prize offered that the names of everyone who contributed money to build the pedestal would be printed in his newspaper. Everyone from children with small coinage to adults with small bills contributed money. I’m pretty sure that this was the first Kickstarter campaign before Kickstarter was a thing.
  • Emma Lazarus, an American poet, was the first to recognize that the Statue of Liberty would become an icon of immigration into America. Her words

    Give me your tired, your poor

    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore

    Send these the homeless.

    are inscribed in the pedestal of the statue.

After the tour we walked back around to the pedestal entrance to have the opportunity to go up the stairs to the statue balcony where there were great views of Manhattan and of the Statue itself. After taking a few pictures, we went back down to the ferry and went to Ellis Island.

Mom and me in front of the Statue of Liberty. (Originally posted on Instagram.)
Manhattan from Liberty Island
Manhattan from Liberty Island

Ellis Island: Gateway to America

Ellis Island was an immigrant processing center from 1892 until 1954 (I totally looked that up online, why would I remember random dates like that?). Millions of immigrants came through Ellis island while it was operational. Many came because of famine, war, or persecution in their home country. Others came for economic opportunities. All came seeking a better life.

Today the buildings on Ellis Island hold the Museum of Immigration. We briefly walked around the pre-Ellis Island immigration exhibit which talked about the various reasons for moving to America. As mentioned above, famine, war and persecution were large factors in immigration choices, but slavery also forced millions of Africans to leave their homes for America.

After walking through that area of the museum, we went upstairs to the main immigrant processing room. It was a very imposing room, and as I stood there I imagined being an immigrant coming into the room. A guided tour was being led by a ranger (Ellis Island is also run by the National Park Service) so we joined in. When we joined, he was talking about the immigration officer desks. He talked about some of the questions that were asked of people coming in to Ellis Island:

“Are you a Communist?”

“Are you an Anarchist?”

“Do you have a job?”

Interestingly, if you answered “yes” to the “Do you have a job?” question, you were sent to further processing because the logic was that “how could you have a job if you’ve never been to America before”. One more interesting fact: the only immigrants that were allowed to bypass the immigration process were the ones on the Titanic because the US Government decided that they had gone through too much trauma to force them to go through immigration.

At the end of the tour the ranger talked about his experiences during 9/11. He was on Ellis Island and said that the plane flew within 20 metres (66 feet for people who don’t understand the proper system of measurement) of the Statue of Liberty. He said that there were no civilians on Ellis Island or Liberty Island because they had just changed over to the winter hours. He said that he volunteered at Ground Zero for weeks after the tragedy.

9/11 Memorial and Museum

What a great segue into the next stop on our whirlwind tour of New York: the 9/11 Museum and Memorial. We used the subway to get there. It’s a straight shot up one of the lines to the World Trade Center. When we arrived, we didn’t have too much trouble finding the 9/11 Memorial because the new One World Trade Center, built near where the Twin Towers stood, is very prominent on the skyline. In fact, it is the tallest building in New York City.

The location of the North and South towers is marked by two fountains set into the ground. The water flows from the top down to the inside of the fountain. It then flows into a lower level. I don’t take pictures because I just didn’t feel like pictures were appropriate. Look it up on Google. I don’t know what it’s supposed to represent, but I’ll give you my very (not) artistic impression of it. Maybe it represents the buildings collapsing. Possibly it represents tears rolling down. I don’t know. It probably means both. I don’t know.

Between the two fountains is museum: the 9/11 Museum. We went inside and walked around for a long time. I’ll give you the highlights (or lowlights, I don’t know which is the more appropriate word here) in no particular order.

  • Because the area around the World Trade Center (WTC) is landfill, there is always a risk of water seeping through and damaging the buildings. To prevent his, the WTC complex has a cement wall built around it to keep the water out. Apparently after 9/11 there was concern that the wall might rupture causing even more damage. The wall, however, held and we were able to see a portion of it from inside the museum.
  • The signs clearly stated the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks: Islamic Terrorists, Jihadist Extremists. I wonder if President Obama has been to this museum?
  • The museum was primarily underground in the excavated area under the WTC tower memorial fountains. You can see the steel beams at the base of each structure from inside the museum.
  • Nearly 3000 people died on 9/11 making it the most deadly attack on US soil ever.
  • 50,000 people worked at the WTC and another 200,000 visited daily. Although nothing can minimize the loss of nearly 3000 people on 9/11, with the sheer volume of people it is a miracle that it was not more.
  • One of the staircases used by people to escape the South building was on display in the museum. Hundreds of people used this staircase to escape.
  • The main exhibit in the museum was about the history of events leading up to and during the attacks. It was very sobering. One of the displays inside this exhibit showed images of people jumping to their deaths to escape the inferno inside. Ya, I couldn’t watch for too long. I cried. <–(shortest sentence in this blog post)

I think that everyone who loves America should see those images and learn the history of that terrible September day. It is a wound in America’s spirit that is still not fully healed and to not acknowledge it is like ignoring deep cut wound. It may be fine for a little while, but deadly when it bursts disastrous if infected. I believe that the wound of 9/11 has been infected by Political Correctness. We have been told for too long that we can’t call it Radical Islamic Terrorism and by doing so, we have poisoned the wound. Sometimes you have to rip off the bandaid and poor rubbing alcohol down the cut and I believe we need to do the same with wound of 9/11. I’m not sure entirely what that looks like, but I know that one part of that looks like remembering the events of 9/11. I believe that the footage should be shown to older high school students in the context of the history so that the new generation (of which I am a part) will know and understand the weight of the issues and that dominate the news cycles today. I urge you, if you happen to be in New York for something, go to the 9/11 Museum and learn the history of that tragic day. Whatever opinions you form after seeing the carnage is up to you, but please at least know the issues before passing down your judgements.

OK I’m done. You can wake up now.

Entertaining Bus Ride

We then did a bus ride entertainment thing called The Ride. It was fine, and I’m glad I did it, but it was definitely not worth $75 which is the face value. We were able to do it using our New York Passes for free, so I didn’t care if I didn’t get $75 out of it. I’d recommend it, it was rather amusing, but nothing to write rave reviews about. Moving on.

The Empire State Building

At this point it was like 19:00 (7pm) or something like that. I don’t know, there were the same number of people on the streets as there were at 12:00. That meant there was plenty of time to go to the top of the Empire State Building. We went up a bunch of elevators and waited in quite a few queues before reaching the observation deck. (As we walked through, it seemed like there was a lot more room for queues to form and we were very thankful that we didn’t have to wait for hours just to get in the elevator.

I had never been in a building that tall before and it was crazy. As we went up, I had to pop my ears because of the pressure differential. We went up to the 80th floor in probably 30 seconds. We walked around a little bit on that floor and then went up to the 86th floor (I walked, mom rode the elevator). On this floor there was an open-air observation deck where we got some great pictures of Lower Manhattan at night.

It was so cool being up so high and being able to see so far in every direction. One interesting fact: when the World Trade Center towers came down, the Empire State Building was once again the tallest building in New York.

Random Stuff

  • You might have noticed that we didn’t really ever stop to eat. Actually, we never really stopped at all. The only food we ate while stationary was dinner at the pizza place.
  • This post is about 2300 words long. Congratulations for reading to the bottom.
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