A Different Kind of Waterfall

I left you yesterday with a mouthful of pizza and two tix to Memphis in my purse. Sorry Spidey. Next time. Fo sho. Maybe. 

So after our luncheon at Battery Gardens Restaurant, we walk off our meal with our two block stroll to the subway to catch the red line #1 train uptown to Time Square. But when we arrive at 42nd, we begin our second brisk walk over to the west side to find Pier 84. 

Oh, almost forgot to mention the two very different solicitors on the train. One guy had a cardboard sign that read “Donate $1 for weed. Hey. Just keepin it real.” Okay.

The other guy came onto our train after the first stop, carrying a backpack and a guitar and sang that famous Spanish song. You know the one. “Aay yay yay yay” makes up most of the words. And he had a really nice voice. I looked at hubby and smiled. “Did you plan this?” Giggle giggle. Eyelashes batting. Hubby dropped some change in the performer’s bag. “Now that deserves a dollar.”

So now we’re speed-walking to the Pier to make sure we don’t miss our 2:30 reservation. Once we hit the water, the walkway along the river is alive with booths, music, food and lots and lots of people. And cruise ships, sailboats, and the famous U.S.S. Intrepid come into view. Some of these boats look like pirate ships. Fleet Week draws boats from around the world, some from France, Spain, and even Japan. I’m mesmerized by the view and hubby is focused on finding our line. We’re going on a boat! Is all I can think! 

We find Pier 84 after a little scouting, get our tickets validated for the yellow water taxi, and wait in line to board. While in line, the nearest Deejay plays “Baby Baby” by JB and I can’t help but dance. Just a little. Give myself a twirl under hubby’s arm, and he pulls it down. Not quite as carefree as me, he’s not ready to put on a show for strangers. I like to embarrass him though. Just want the whole world to know how much I love this guy. And I ain’t afraid to show it. But I’m nice. I take it down a few notches and lean over to him to whisper in his ear, “Thank you. I’m so excited!”

We’ve never taken any boat rides on the Hudson, and this is the Hop on/Hop off Water Taxi that we can take from pier to pier all day if we want to. Our first stop is Battery Park Pier. Hey, weren’t we just here? As we exit the boat, I realize where we’re headed to next. Freedom Tower One is almost complete and it is breath-takingly tall and architecturally beautiful. 1776 feet tall too. Isn’t that so cool? Learned that from the knowledgeable tour guide on the water taxi. She also told riders that the best place to purchase I ♡ New York t-shirts as souvenirs was China Town. 8 for $10. Now that’s a good deal. But she warned, “Don’t buy perfume there. It’ll smell nice at first. But then you’ll smell like feet. Unless you’re going for that effect.”                                                                                                    

So as we start walking toward to the former location of the twin towers, we step in silence. Aware that we haven’t been this close for more than a decade. Not that we haven’t come to the city. We just haven’t been on the south side in the Wall Street District since the towers were attacked and fell. We get in line for the Memorial with our passes and even as we weave back and forth, my thoughts race back to that awful day in history. How can they not? I don’t know anyone who died in the towers, but I know a few people who lost someone, and I can remember like it was yesterday exactly where I was in New York when it happened. I’m sure we all can, even if we weren’t in NYC at the time.

We file through security, similar to that in an airport these days, and follow the walkway toward the two reflecting pools. Along the way, there are photographs from around the world as different countries reached out to America to mourn with us. To honor the victims. And to let us know that we weren’t alone. In our sadness and rage at the injustice. 

We followed the walkway that lead out to the courtyard lined with trees, one tree in particular that was found on the grounds during 9/11, barely alive. This tree was transplanted on the memorial sight as the “survivor” tree. 

A little history on the Memorial taken from Meghan Shinn:
“Veteran landscape architect Peter Walker was tapped to provide a greenscape by Michael Arad, the designer who came up with the plan for the reflecting pools, or “voids.” Initially Arad’s plan showed a stone plaza surrounding the voids, but the memorial’s organizers asked him to find a landscape designer to change this. The Berkeley, Calif.–based Walker, now 79, came up with the idea to surround the voids with trees that would add texture, bring things down to a human scale and lend a sense of life and comfort.” 

So 412 Swamp white oaks line the plaza along with the Callery Pear or Survivor Tree that was rescued from that tragic day in history.

The pools are appropriately titled, “Reflecting Absence.” 

Then it hits me. 

 “You brought me to a waterfall.” My voice cracks and I swallow. “A different kind of waterfall.” 

Even before we approach the South Reflecting Pool, I’m tearing up. The names of the victims are carved out, like a reverse engraving, all along the edges of the memorials. The falls roll over on all four sides into a thirty foot deep pool and then roll into a deeper inner square in the center. It’s nearly impossible to see over the edge into the smaller inner square while standing at ground level. Like a question mark. I’m sure for those who lost a loved one and for all of us who felt that deep loss and pain on 9/11, that many questions remain unanswered. Very few bodies were even recovered from the wreckage. 

On that day, hubby was working at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn and I was teaching an ESL class at my church in Flushing, Queens that morning. After the first tower was hit, hubby called me and told me to listen to the news. So I picked up a radio from somewhere and as a class, we all listened to the news. Every station was talking about it. “Clear blue skies. Doesn’t make any sense that the pilot would fly right into the World Trade Center.” With the help of sketches on a white board, I was able to explain to the students that something very bad had happened. Regarding an airplane. And a famous building in Manhattan. Then when the announcer reported the Pentagon and the Second Tower were also hit by different planes, I told all my students to rush home to their families, stay indoors and be safe. 

Hubby called again. He had been on the 12th floor, and as he watched the second tower crumble down into a billow of smoke on a tv screen, nearby residents and medical personnel were screaming. They were watching it live through the window, across the water. That was his cue. He dropped everything and ran to the car. 

He told me to keep Hannah with me indoors until he arrived to drive us home. Once we were home, he turned around and drove back to Lutheran Hospital with his older brother, a physician as well, in hopes to help minister health care to victims being ferried over from Battery Park. The highways were closed but they allowed Sun to drive down to Brooklyn after the two brothers identified themselves as doctors. Tons and tons of cots were set up. And then the teams of medical staff waited. And waited. And waited. 

But no one came. Not even one ferry. The beds remained empty. It was just so so sad. 

As I laid my hand atop the names of men and women I had never met but who took their last breaths on these very grounds, I am once again aware of how precious life is. And how in an instant, everything can change.  

We walk the perimeter of two sides of the South pool and then walk over to the North memorial. I’ve heard so many stories of people who ran late or didn’t go to work that day—a late alarm clock, a migraine headache, a missed train. My older brother worked in the city at the time, and with the cell phones towers jammed up, hours passed before we knew he was okay. He said that the city was chaos. Everyone was just running. In all directions. But mostly as far away from downtown as possible. Beyond thankful that he is okay. 

So in the middle of our Anniversary date, hubby takes me to a waterfall. And as the clouds roll in and a few raindrops begin to fall, it’s like God is adding his own tears to the pools, already flowing with tears of families and friends who lost someone. 

People often ask me where I’m from. And for years I’d always say Chicago, Canada, India. I can say that 9/11 was the defining moment when I knew I was a New Yorker. Because this happened to my city. To my town. To my neighbors.

As we leave the Memorial to walk back to the Battery Park Pier, I hold onto hubby’s hand just a tad tighter. Perspective. In the day to day ups and downs of communication in marriage, squabbles come up and we bicker about this and that. But moments like this remind me that life is short. Treasure each moment you have. Because you never know. You just never know. What awaits around the next corner. 

Some might think hubby’s choice wasn’t so romantic. But I beg to differ. Any experience that two people share together that draws them closer to each other and makes them appreciate each other   expresses romance in the deepest of ways. So glad we visited the memorial. And so thankful to do it. Holding hands with my best friend. 

**Where were you on 9/11? Have you had a chance to visit the memorial? 

**Come back tomorrow to read about the continuation of our Date Day in NYC. And expect the unexpected…

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2 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Waterfall

  1. Hey Raj. Mark & I were able to visit this memorial in November. I had the same emotions that you expressed here, sorrow followed by a deep sense of thankfulness, and the need to hold Mark just a bit tighter. Last weekend we went to the Flight 93 Memorial. Beautiful and sad, but sacred in a way too.

    • Thanks for sharing Sarah! Wow. The Flight 93 Memorial too. So much happened that day. I heard Lisa Beamer speak at a WOF conference and I remember walking away thinking, “How do you do that? Bring a child into the world and face it all, alone, even if you know your husband died a hero?” Sigh.