Available in MY BOOKSTORE – top menu bar!
Also at Q.E.D. Astoria (both books),
the New York Transit Museum (A Marshmallow on the Bus),
and Word Up Community Book Shop (A Marshmallow on the Bus).
The new 9/11 Museum is open now in lower Manhattan. Previews of the museum were offered to 9/11 families and to the workers who spent so many months recovering the remains and clearing the site. I was fortunate to be able to attend as a guest of one of the 9/11 families. My friend and I had agreed in advance that we would just do this somehow, get through it, and focus on getting a nice lunch afterward.
While I was waiting to meet her, I walked around a handful of the neighboring streets adjacent to the memorial and this new museum. It’s funny – she and I both got a little lost getting there. I never had to know where the World Trade Center was before, because I could always look up. I never looked for streets or coordinates the way you do in every other part of the city, I would just look up. Remarkably, the new Freedom Tower was topped in mist and fog yesterday so looking up, even if that building were something I would look for, was futile. There was nothing visible up past the first couple dozen storeys.
You enter the museum and go down. There is a coffee and snack bar and a conference room just up a flight of stairs, but everything else is below ground where you can view the slurry wall that held back the Hudson River, preventing all of lower Manhattan from going under water. And there are exhibits specific to each of the towers, along with photos of each of the nearly 3000 people who died.
The twisted beams and steel supports that were pulled out of the pile are displayed as if they were objets d’art, something better suited to a contemporary art museum. One of the fire trucks that was destroyed is there in a large room that also has the remains of the communication towers that supported the antennas. That’s one of the things I remember from September 11 – those antennas were integral in most cellphone communication in 2001. It’s why telephone calls, in the first few hours of the event, were so difficult.
What struck me, beyond the enormity of the exhibits and the massive amount of painful and painstaking work that went into creating this place, was one small room where they played music. In other rooms, there were recordings of news broadcasts, tapes of the voicemail messages that were left by the people in the towers, and I heard Amazing Grace playing off in the distance when I was about to leave.
But for just this one room, just for a small exhibit, nothing struck me like the recording of a Rimsky-Korsakov excerpt from Scheherazade. How terribly perfect it was. While the photos, the objects, and the collected debris were all so very important, nothing is more important than telling the story. That’s Scheherazade – she lived because her stories held the king in thrall. She was the iconic storyteller, the one whose very existence relied on her ability to tell a story. I was so moved by the selection of that particular piece of music in that tiny room in that vast and sorrowful place that I can’t even remember now what it was accompanying, what part of the story that room was trying to tell.
But that’s what I came away with: the story of 9/11 is how bold and visionary New Yorkers built two tall, arrogant, spectacular, landmark buildings and how a small group of envious, hateful men thought they could bring down those buildings and bring down America at the same time.
And how wrong those men were.
While we might have been thrown off balance and it might have taken us months to mourn the dead and grieve our loss, we’re not down. The Freedom Tower is up, the new transportation hub is nearly ready, and there is so much for us to be thankful for. The twin memorial fountains are lovely with the sound of fresh water running over stone. It’s a gentle place to remember both the people who died and the day that took them from us.
This story is still being written. We will keep telling this 9/11 story, we will tell stories of the courage and the heroism, the lives lost, and how everything changed that one frightfully beautiful day in September, when the clear blue sky was suddenly filled with the smoke from a terrible fire.
We are all storytellers now and it’s what keeps us alive. Just like Scheherazade.
Photos by me!
Winter this year has brought a lot of snow into our lives. New Yorkers got used to not having it for so long, it’s almost like a surprise when the forecast calls for some inches of snowfall. Today we were supposed to be visited by what meteorologists call a Classic Nor’easter. It was supposed to drop 30 inches of snow on the city tonight and the prospect of all that snow started to sound pretty dire. Then, mid-week, the weather people all backed off the original forecast and re-calibrated the inches to a mere tenth of the original estimate. As I write, it hasn’t started snowing yet, but odds are we’ll only see a dusting. What that means is simply this: no boots.
Sidewalks and most streets in New York are cleared of snow in a way that I do not remember streets getting clean when I was growing up in Michigan. I remember walking through streets that had been plowed where the snow was measured more accurately in feet than in inches. And I wore boots all the time. My mother would cut off sheets of wax paper for me to wrap up my stockinged feet so they would slide in my boots. It would get all wet when the snow came over the tops of my boots, but everyone had wax paper so it just became part of the deal.
Except for my dad. My dad had a regular boot protocol too but it was more efficient and less necessary at the same time. More efficient, because the way he would tuck his pants’ cuffs into his boots made it virtually impossible for snow to get into his socks and less necessary, because he drove a car everywhere and rarely walked any great distance in the snow. He would shovel out the driveway every time it snowed of course, but his feet followed the shovel he pushed ahead of him and he walked on the clear ground left by the path.
But every time I pull on my snow boots now, I think about my dad and his boots. They were dark, thick rubber boots, about 10 inches tall with a center front gusset and two big tin buckles. He would sit in the kitchen with the boots next to him on the floor. Then he would carefully fold his pants’ cuffs around his ankles so they lay flat on his socks. Like hospital corners on bedsheets, his neatly folded pants fit perfectly into his boots. The gusset would close and lay flat too so the buckles would make everything close up tight and everything was neat.
Watching my dad perform this simple procedure made me feel safe. Regardless of how imperfect my own boot application was on any given day, I thought if my dad could do this with such precision, it must mean that he did other things with equal thought and experience and knowledge. He knew how to make sure no snow got in his boots and I was always coming home with wet socks. He had neat buckles and creased pants and I had wax paper. I had something to aspire to, something to assign to being a grownup. Kids got wet socks, grownups had that all solved.
My dad stays indoors most of the time now and I’m not sure he still has the boots I remember. When I bought the ones I wear in the New York slush now, I tried to find something practical like the ones he used to wear. I got short Wellies that do the job and I make sure I take the time to fold my pants’ cuffs across my ankles the way he did. I take the extra step of pulling my stretchy socks over the bottoms to make sure everything is snug because, after all, that’s what grownups do.
Last week, I was wearing the boots on my way in from the train station when I came up to a stretch of blocked sidewalk that forced me to walk out into the street, around the car that was pulled over the path. I took one step out to the street and stepped into deep water that had puddled against the curb and the slush went up nearly to the stop of my boots, roughly eight inches. But my feet were still dry! I started laughing out loud at how clever I was to have worn my boots and to have dry socks.
But it was all my dad. And, I have to be honest, I started to feel like a grownup.
A daily selection of the best content published on WordPress, collected for you by humans who love to read.
Writing about New York and everywhere else
The Semi-Adventurous Travellers
A letter you always wanted to write
Poetry and Prose of Jerry T. Johnson, Writer
Independent Journalist + Freelance Writer
Writing about us, after the death of our parents
Culture, Politics, Life. For Broads With Opinions.
Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka
My solo Camino adventure
a journal of fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry
New Voices in Fiction, Nonfiction, Plays & Poetry
A World of Literary Pieces
This site chronicles my travels, musings &ramblings as I get busy celebrating life!
SoCal Trail Guides | Trip Guides | Gear Reviews
heather schramm-lifestyle photographer