Friday, October 18, 2013

New York City - Day 3: World Trade Center & Wall Street

On our third day in New York City, we packed in quite a punch!

We started our day by visiting the 9-11 Memorial.  It's strange to think of it, but my kids really don't have any memory of the events of that fateful day, assuming they were alive in the first place!  I didn't really realize it until we got there, but Steve and I actually had to explain to the kids about what happened that day.  They had a vague idea, but really didn't know any details.  The twins were only 5yo when it happened, and the other two boys were 3yo and 1yo.  My two youngest children weren't even born yet!  The way that the world suddenly changed that day is the only way that they will ever remember the world as being.  How odd!

The 9-11 Memorial is a somber place.  There are two sunken reflecting pools where each of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center used to stand.  Thirty-foot waterfalls - the largest in North America - cascade into the pools, each then descending into a center void. Surrounding each reflecting pool are the names of each person who perished that day at either the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, or the field in western Pennsylvania. 

On the grounds of the memorial site is something called the "Survivor Tree".  This tree was planted on the original World Trade Center plaza in the 1970's.  After 9-11, workers found the damaged tree, reduced to an eight-foot-tall stump, in the wreckage at Ground Zero. The tree was nursed back to health and grew to be 30 feet tall.  In 2010, the tree was returned to the memorial site and continues to grow to this day.

Adjacent to the memorial site is the new "One Trade Center" still being built.  It reaches 1776 feet (coincidental height?), and will be the tallest building in the United States when it is finished.

And lastly, still being built and not yet open to the public, is the 9-11 Memorial museum and visitor center.  While we weren't able to go inside, we were able to look through the window and saw two trident beams that were part of the original WTC buildings.

After we left the 9-11 Memorial, we stopped in a quintessential NYC coffee shop for a restroom break and some coffee, then started up the street into the financial district.

Along the way, however, we got sidetracked (again) when we stumbled upon the historic Trinity Church.  We viewed the inside, then walked through the gravesites on either side of the church.  It seems a bit odd to have this smack in downtown Manhattan, but it does predate the "concrete cliffs" surrounding it.  It is here that Alexander Hamilton is buried.  It is fitting that his gravesite is at the head of Wall Street, considering that he was our country's first Secretary of the Treasury.

After visiting the church, we started down Wall Street, which today is closed off to automobile traffic.  We first found the back door to the New York Stock Exchange, protected by armed guards. In following around to the front of the building, we encountered a massive amount of tourists and found a National Park Service Historic Site called "Federal Hall". And it just so happened that only a few hours earlier the government shut-down had ended, so we were able to go inside!

Federal Hall is the site of our country's first capital.  This isn't well known, but our capital was first New York City, second Philadelphia, then third and finally Washington, D.C..  It was at this site that George Washington took the oath of office as our country's very first president.

Going back outside of Federal Hall, we found markings on the ground designating where the original palisade wall (i.e., "Wall Street") stood back when the city was known as New Amsterdam.  And of course, we got up close to the front of the New York Stock Exchange - a very impressive building!  Unfortunately, the NYSE stopped giving tours following the attack of 9-11, so we weren't able to go inside at all.

Walking another block down Broad Street brought us to the famous Wall Street Charging Bull bronze statue.  Surrounded by tourists, this statue has come to symbolize America's aggressive financial optimism and prosperity.

Then we sat in the Bowling Green Park in the financial district of Manhattan and ate our brown-bag lunches.

Following lunch, we hopped onto the subway and rode to Chinatown.  While I was impressed with the unique quality and ethnic diversity of Chinatown, my kids were less impressed, mostly due to the open-air fish markets which freaked them out a little bit.  Besides the smell of fresh seafood, they were squeamish about the crabs that were still alive that people were buying for their lunches.  We did, however, find great bargains on "I Love New York" t-shirts in Chinatown.  Interestingly enough, NYC's Chinatown is the western hemisphere's largest concentration of Asian immigrants.

A few blocks away was Little Italy.  Back in the late 1800's/early 1900's, New York City was the home of many European immigrants, Steve's paternal line included.  Italians formed their own society, and Little Italy was born.  In Little Italy we had only one goal: find Lombardi's Pizzeria.  Lombardi's is the country's oldest pizzeria, and they still bake their pizzas in a deep coal oven.  We ordered our pizza, watched them bake it, then took it "to go" in a box with us on the subway, then ate it on the ferry on our way back home.  I'm sure the people around us were jealous!

As you can see, we experienced a lot of New York City on our third day!