We’re staying at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in downtown New York in a Manhattan suburb called Tribeca (bordered by Soho and Greenwich Village). It’s one of the suburbs close to the 9/11 WTC attack, which has suffered in recent years, but now appears to be undergoing a revival.
Yesterday, despite being jetlagged, we did a trek up the Empire State building which meant a two hour foot-crunching queue and an altercation with Bridget, but it was worth it to see the amazing views of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Central Park. Today we walked past Ground Zero, went to an exhibition in St Paul’s Cathedral — the church right near where the twin towers collapsed which served as a refuge. The church also became famous for being draped in letters, messages and photographs of sympathy and support in the aftermath. Besides the big hole in the ground marking the Twin Tower’s foundations (which now has the NYC subway system visibly running through it again) I couldn’t see much evidence of damage. There was one big building that still had scaffolding around it — but otherwise it looks like there has been quite a bit of reconstruction and restoration.
I get that strange sense of deja vu I predicted would be there while while walking around New York. It’s my first time here, but I’ve seen it all before… on the countless American movies and TV shows we see. The cars, the cabs, the buildings, the traffic lights, the empire state building, the brooklyn bridge, the NY Stock Exchange with its big US flag draped on its columns … I’ve seen it all before. We also walked past the Trump Towers right near the NYSE (is that where the Apprentices who have just been fired get into their cabs to be driven off?)
But it all seems slightly smaller in real life — except for the skyscrapers and cars here — which are all big. You have to work in a skyscraper and own a SUV to fit in here. (Well I got the latter one pegged, just need to work on that skyscraper now).
After the trip to Ground Zero we saw a movie about United Flight 93 at Cinema’s just off Union Square. It brought home the horror of 9/11 to us once again — and we were one of the many shocked faces leaving the cinema. I mean, this is where it happened. It is quite surprising that they are showing this kind of movie so soon after the 9/11 tragedy — and in Manhattan itself. If I remember back to where I was when the drama unfolded… being at a conference in Grahamstown… and then rushing home to watch building after building collapse, and biting back the tears….
After the twin towers, we then walked along the Hudson River towards Battery Park (where we saw a memorial to the Korean war which included South Africa, sporting its old Apartheid flag) and then around the financial district, past Trump Towers, the NYSE and then back to our hotel for some air conditioning. I thought Africa was hot. South Africa is temperate compared to the heat and humidity here.