Bucket List Item #18: See the Beauty in Ground Zero

With the 15th anniversary of 9/11 coming up this weekend, I thought it was appropriate to make everyone understand that despite how tragic that was for our country, NYC has done an amazing job honoring those involved in the most positive, beautiful way possible. Here is a timeline of how I have experienced the rebuild of “Ground Zero.”

2001: I was in middle school at my orthodontist Dr. Utley’s office getting my braces’ rubber bands changed from summer rainbow colors to holiday colors… I’m sure that surprises none of you. In all seriousness, the crying dental assistants and my distraught Papa (who I rarely see emotional) was what made the magnitude of what was happening set in. When I got back to school, several students and teachers were being escorted out, because although PA seems pretty far, many people in my hometown have families who live or work in NY. We all know what took place that day and what transformed America for years to follow…

2005: I went to NYC for my high school fashion class. Without even realizing what we were about to come across, we were taken to Ground Zero and it was the most heart-wrenching thing to see in person. The two towers that once stood so tall were now missing, and there was nothing but debris and caution tape everywhere. It made the negative memory of it hard fight off, and I can only imagine what it felt like for the people who lived there and had to pass it every day.

2011: I was in Myrtle Beach for a getaway with friends and we turned the TV on for the first time in days, since we were all somewhat somber knowing that it was the 10th anniversary of 9/11. For those who forgot about it, it brought it back to the forefront of their minds that day, but many people around the country didn’t understand the scale of what NYC had in store of the site. On that 10th anniversary, I remember watching the commemorative ceremony where the enormous memorial waterfalls were unveiled and I knew it was something I had to see for myself.

2014: I finally made it to NYC to see the memorial waterfalls. I can’t explain how amazing it is to see in person. The size of them, the beauty of the lights on the falls, and the unbelievable amount of names engraved in the stone. It was extremely overwhelming. I won’t go into too much detail for the sake of not making everyone sob like I did while I was there (ask Gavin and every security guard I passed). But you have to see it in person to feel the reality of it, with the engraved names of children, firefighters, families and more, and the white roses placed by their personal visitors sporadically popping out of the stone. There was also a fence around a small tree and I asked a security guard why. He explained that it was the only tree left standing after the attack… obviously that triggered another meltdown and I called it a day. But for how sad I was, it was such a positive feeling leaving there seeing THAT instead of piles of debris. Unfortunately, while we were there, we were a few months early for the opening of the museum and One World Trade Center, so I obviously had to go back again.

2016: This past spring, I finally got a few extra days in NYC after the summit I mentioned before and made it to the One World Trade Center and Observatory. The scale of the building and the detail that they went into to make you understand what went into the rebuild was phenomenal. There were video interviews with the construction staff who worked on it for years, families, government officials, and more. It helped me and I’m sure everyone there visiting understand what it took to turn that memory into somewhere that people could go for a reminder of how great America is (despite what you think your friends Donald and Hillary are doing to it). All politics aside, it made it clear how people united nationwide to bring the funds, the labor and the support to make this happen.
If the entrance to the building wasn’t great enough, the elevator ride up to the top was mind-blowing. As you crept up the 104-story building, every wall of the elevator was a video that showed the progression of the NYC’s landscape over the years, followed by the elevator opening to an massive window displaying today’s view.

I won’t give too much away, but I will highly recommend two things:

  1. Getting the handheld directory that lets you point it at an area as you walk around 360 degrees of windows, and it tells you what buildings, bridges, fields, bodies of water, etc. are there.
  2. Going in the evening so that in your 1-2 hours there, you can see it in daylight and at night. Both are breathtaking, but offer completely different views.

TO ADD TO YOUR BUCKET LIST: Visit the 9/11 Memorial and One World Trade Center for yourself!

Here are some resources that may help:


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