Sunday, February 28, 2010

New York - February 2006 - Part 1

Things have been a bit slow and I haven't had the chance to get out and take any new photos lately. So to make up for that, I'm going to show a bunch of pictures taken during a quick trip up to New York City in 2006. That trip was done before I started this blog, so it never really got written up. But it was a great trip, even if we were there for just a few short days.

I made the trip with my cousin and her husband. Like every visit I've made to a great city (like London, Paris or Chicago), this jaunt to New York was way too short to really see much of what the city offered. We pretty much went up there for the weekend, but we tried to squeeze in as much sight-seeing as possible.

This trip was also taken before I had upgraded to a digital camera, so all these pictures are from my old film camera (a Pentax ZX50). I ended up going through 20 rolls of film there, and spent most of my time on the trip worrying if the airport x-rays would ruin the film before I had a chance to get them developed.

But we went left early on a Saturday morning and flew from Little Rock to Atlanta, where we switched planes and then headed to New York. That flight had a lot of turbulence. The reason for that being that we were flying over a massive storm system. It wasn't all that bad, it would shake the plane a few times. But it was enough to get the pilots worried. Because of the turbulence, we all had to remain in our seats with the seatbelts on.
In the air

This caused a bit of discomfort with several of our fellow passengers, who needed to go visit the plane's lavatories. Since we weren't supposed to leave our seats, you'd see a few people try to stealthily stand up and then sneak up the aisles out of view of the flight attendants. They were all caught, and would be seen a few minutes later walking back defeated to their seats. A few seconds later, a flight attendant would inform us that we had to remain in our seats. Towards the end of the flight, they finally let people up and quickly tried to serve us snacks (this was back when you would get stuff like that on flights). They barely had time to hand us some pretzels before we landed.

We were flying into LaGuardia, and I was lucky enough to have the window seat. As the plane went to land, it curved around Manhatten and we were treated to amazing views.
New York

After landing, we got into a taxi and headed to the hotel. I was just tagging along with my family on this trip, and didn't do any of the planning for the plane tickets or hotel. But the hotel was booked through one of those budget travel websites. It was one of those sites where you say how much you want to pay and it finds hotels in that range, but doesn't tell you exactly where it is. So our hotel was booked, and all I knew about it before was that it was "near Chinatown." I thought that would be good, since we would probably have some good meals on the trip.

The taxi took us over the Brooklyn Bridge, and I was thrilled to see the city and the huge collection of skyscrapers. We all joked that you could easily tell someone is from Arkansas when they are amazed to see any number of buildings over 20 stories tall. The taxi stopped at the front of the hotel and I was shocked to see where we were. It wasn't in Chinatown at all. In fact the hotel website would have been better to say "near Wall Street" or "near World Trade Center site." From the front door of the hotel, you could see buildings of the World Trade Center complex that had survived the 9/11 attacks. In fact, the hotel was about a block away from Ground Zero.
New York taxis

We must have stumbled onto some great off-season rates for this hotel, because we had a room that provided some amazing views of the city. It was a corner room, and on one side was a view of the Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. On the other side was a view looking up towards the Trade Center site, with what appeared to be an apartment building next to us.
The view from our hotel room

Since our time in the city was so short, we decided to try to quickly walk over to Battery Park to see if we could get over to the Statue of Liberty that day. This was taken along the walk down to the park:
New York

We got to Battery Park only to find out that we had just missed the last ferry ride of the day to Liberty Island. After walking by some people trying to sell us Rolexes, we had a look around the park.
Battery Park, New York
The golden sphere seen in this shot used to sit between the Twin Towers, and was moved to this spot in Battery Park.

This was as close as we could get to the Statue of Liberty that day:
Statue of Liberty, from Battery Park

Along with the tourists, there were a good number of birds swirling about. This one perched on a light pole in Battery Park.
The Birds

We then walked back towards the hotel, passing by Trinity Church.
Trinity Cathedral
The first Trinity Church was built in 1698. The current church was built in 1846, with the spire being the tallest point in the city until 1890. The front of the church looks toward Wall Street.

From there we walked past the hotel to the World Trade Center site, and paid our respects to Ground Zero. Seeing it person sent chills down my spine. It was a huge gaping hole in the heart of the city, a deep chasm that had a deep air of sadness around it.

I couldn't help but to remember where I was on that horrible day in 2001. I had graduated from college in May of 2001, but wasn't able to find a decent job. So that summer I started working at the J.C. Penny's at McCain Mall in North Little Rock. It wasn't the best of jobs, but it was a paycheck that paid the rent of my tiny apartment. But I missed a good deal of work in September because a very close relative had been sick, and then passed away. The funeral was just a few days before, and I woke up that morning in a sour and depressed mood.

That Tuesday was the first day I was scheduled to go back to work. Just as I got up to take a shower, the phone rang. It was my brother. He was working in an office in the TCBY Tower, the tallest building in Little Rock. He told me that something bad was going on, but there weren't any TVs in his office and he wanted me to turn on the news to give him an update. I naively asked what news station was covering it, and he replied "probably all of them."

So I turned on the TV and watched with horror as that morning's events unfolded. I relayed the bad news to my brother, until he told me that his building was being evacuated due to safety concerns. I hung up the phone and then headed to work.

So I drove to the mall to go to work. Usually there was a morning meeting, where the manager would discuss which department had the best sales. But that morning, everyone sat in a stunned silence around a TV set. Several people were crying, and no one knew what to say or do. It came time to open the store, and we all went out and stood behind the cash registers. Usually mornings were quiet, but the store was eerily silent.

I was a bit amazed to see a few customers stroll in. I wondered if they hadn't seen the news yet, or decided that this was the best day to come in to buy pants. But I wasn't there for long. After a few short hours, the mall was shut down because shopping centers were considered to be a security threat. I went home and spent the rest of the day watching the news...

It is impossible to think of what it was like to have been in New York on that day. It was eerie to walk through the streets that were once filled with panic, and then covered in the thick dust and debris after the towers fell.

Ground Zero looked like a construction site, and if you didn't know any better you might not be able to tell that anything terrible had happened there. It reminded me of Civil War battlefields, which when viewed in present times are nothing but empty fields that hardly reflect the destructive events that took place before.
Ground Zero

The area around Ground Zero has returned to life, with just the empty space of Ground Zero and the shrouded Deutsche Bank Building still showing great evidence of the attacks. The 42-story Deutsche Building was heavily damaged during the attacks, and is in the process of slowing being deconstructed. The building was covered in a black netting, which we could see from the window of our hotel.

I tried to see the footprint of where the towers stood, and then imagine how high and mighty they once soared.
Ground Zero

We walked around the perimeter of the site, and I was dismayed and angered by some of the other people there. There were groups of tourists, lining up and smiling shamelessly while getting their picture taken with Ground Zero in the background. Several people walked around selling cheaply printed books with pictures of the attacks. The worst was a woman who sat on a blanket with pirated DVDs in front of her. While I do enjoy watching movies, I don't think this was the best place to try to get people to buy copies of the "40 Year Old Virgin."

It started to snow while we were at Ground Zero. The weather people had predicted that there was a strong chance of snow while we were in New York. The big storm that we flew over was just now moving into the city. While it was certainly cold out there, the snow hadn't started to stick yet. We got onto the subway and headed over to Times Square, just as dusk settled over New York.
Times Square

It was busy, but somehow smaller than what I thought it would be like.
Times Square

We went by a few familiar sights:
Radio City Music Hall

NBC Studios
At the time, I was working in the broadcasting industry. But I don't think I could have gotten in there, since I was working for a PBS affiliate then.

The snow was coming down harder, and we heard talk that it was going to be a huge storm. It wasn't sticking yet, and I didn't think it would do much. This is the Empire State Building, with snow billowing around it.
Empire State Building

After a bit more time exploring the streets, some snow was finally beginning to stick along some plants along the sidewalk. Later, when we got to the hotel, we turned on the TV and saw the weather people were predicting significant levels of snowfall. They were calling it a "Weekend Whiteout."
The weather on the news

I laughed at that, saying that it's silly that there is going to be all this snow when it's just barely sticking. I was accustomed to Arkansas snowfall, where dire snow is predicted that ends up being nothing more than a light dusting, if that. We went to sleep that night not worrying much about the weather, or any "Weekend Whiteout."

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