OUR PERSONAL GROUND ZERO 9/11 EXPERIENCE

As a non-American visiting New York, I initially felt that seeing Ground Zero was just another tourist experience.  However, after passing through the queues and security checkpoints I realized and understood the magnitude of the events that occurred in that particular place that day.

Twelve years ago, I was watching 9/11 unfold via news broadcasts while on a photo shoot in a studio.  But it was difficult to really understand the scope of the destruction without seeing the giant space that the World Trade Center once occupied.   Not until you stand between the memorials and look up at the newly built One World Trade Center (or Freedom Tower) that you truly appreciate the scale of the tragedy.  Just imagining not one but two massive buildings came crashing down and the horror of the lives lost was truly heartbreaking.

Allow me to share with you this experience that made me change my perception of 9/11 and of life in general.

GETTING THERE

Our hotel was just literally a few steps away from Ground Zero so we just walked going there.  We couldn’t help but imagine what it would have been like if we were in the same hotel that very moment the attacks happened.

marriott

We walked past the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) where they installed the Fire Dept. Memorial Wall honoring the firemen who died in service during 9/11.

FDNYWALLmay we never forget

THE QUEUE

The line was long but moving quite fast so waiting time was bearable.  Here are some images while on queue.

q.quiet

The "blue guards" and these signs were everywhere.

The “blue guards” and these signs were everywhere.

It was Christmas season when we visited, hence this sign

It was Christmas season when we visited, hence this sign

If you look closely at this flag of honor, this is made up of names of all those who perished during that time.

If you look closely at this flag of honor, this is made up of names of all those who perished during that time.

Directional signs going to the compound

Directional signs going to the Ground Zero complex

GROUND ZERO

There were two square pools where the towers used to stand (North and South Towers). The pools were breathtaking! The perimeter of each pool had fountains that dropped water to the bottom of the pools.

pool.1pool.2

The names of all those who died on the site (WTC employees, firemen, etc.)  were inscribed at the edge  of each pool.

The names of all those who died on the site (WTC employees, firemen, first responders, ordinary New Yorkers, etc.) were inscribed at the edge of each pool.

Everybody was encouraged to touch the inscribed names and offer prayers.

Everybody was encouraged to touch the inscribed names and offer prayers.

Giving a bit of history lessons to the Little Boy

Giving a bit of history lessons to the Little Boy

Little Boy was greatly affected by the 9/11 story that until this day, he includes everybody in this tragedy in his nightly prayers.

Little Boy was greatly affected by the 9/11 story that until this day, he includes everybody in this tragedy in his night prayers.

Amused to see his Lolo's name

Amused to see his Lolo’s name

There's an electronic information guide/directory inside the memorial that gives information on where to find the name of a loved one.

There’s an electronic information guide/directory inside the memorial that gives information on where to find the name of a loved one.

It wasn’t overly crowded considering it was the holidays.  There were plenty of room to move around the memorial.

park.1park.J&apark.family 1

Here comes the sun!

Here comes the sun!

The security was always on alert mode.  We saw them in action when an abandoned bag was found on the ground.

The security was always on alert mode. We saw them in action when an abandoned bag was found on the ground.

The memorial guards were very strict... but friendly too.

The memorial guards were very strict… but friendly too. Little Boy, who was into anything military, asked if he can have a photo with them and they obliged.

Behind us was a structure inside the memorial ground that was said to become a museum which will open in 2014.

Behind us was a structure inside the memorial ground that was said to become a museum which they say will open in 2014.

An actual debris that was part of the original WTC structure.

An actual debris that was part of the original WTC structure.

Seeing the whole area being a flurry of construction is bittersweet for me.  WTC will never be the same again but I have to give it to the New Yorkers for their fortitude in developing the site again.

construction

The One World Trade Center or 1 WTC a.k.a. Freedom Tower is the primary building in the New World Trade Center complex.  its construction began in 2006 and was almost finished when we visited in December 2012.

The One World Trade Center or 1 WTC a.k.a. Freedom Tower is the primary building in the New World Trade Center complex. Its construction began in 2006 and was almost finished when we visited in December 2012.

It was a surreal experience.  There was a point when we were just standing still, staring at the water, touching the etched names, not talking for a few minutes offering a silent prayer.  I have no connection to the site nor did I  personally know anyone who was affected but the way I see it, 9/11 wasn’t just a New York thing.  It touched the entire world.

“At this moment 12 years ago, millions of Americans went to bed quietly with no thought that the next morning their world would change forever…. So tonight if you have people in your life that you love, tell them”

TRAVEL DIARIES: Free Fun & Cheap Thrills In Santa Monica

Body clocks adjusted, suitcases unpacked, routines revisited.  Much as I didn’t want our long holiday to end, everything gets back to (crazy, fun) normal. And before my blog site gets stale from being away for too long, let me share with you my travel diary of our first U.S. trip as a family. Heck, MY first U.S. trip!

Dear Hubby was scheduled to do a photo shoot in L.A.  and since it was Christmas season and December is a special month for us (it’s our wedding anniversary and Dear Hubby’s birthday month), Little Boy and I tagged along on this trip and later on headed to two other cities for some more adventure.

SANTA MONICA (LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA)

At the risk of sounding overly emphatic, I have to say this… I absolutely looove this part of L.A.!!!  I like the relaxed vibe in Santa Monica, it makes you feel that you’re in a REAL vacation.  I don’t know about you but I have this thing about scheduled tours that stress me out, the crowds, the long queue, high ticket prices, etc.  We never felt that in Santa Monica at all! No crowds, no tourist traps,   and best of all, it’s FREE FUN! This is such a big deal for us cheapskates :).

PALISADES PARK
You can just chill around the famous PALISADES PARK which is right across our hotel… It is a laid-back beach community within a major city attracting both families and single people.  While Dear Hubby was working on location,  the Little Boy and I explored this area and fell in love with it instantly.  It would’ve been a shame if Dear Hubby didn’t get to see this gorgeous site, I’m glad he extended his stay for a couple of days after his official business to get around Santa Monica with us.

PALISADES PARK.FAMILYPALISADES PARK.FAMILY2PALISADES.FATHER&SON

This is a great walking path on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the ocean.  Great view of the Santa Monica pier.

This is a great walking path on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the ocean. Great view of the Santa Monica pier!

Amazing view, gorgeous path, and fresh and crisp air. What’s not to love?

santa monica viewpalisades.tree-lined path

You’ll see many locals running, walking, biking, working out, or simply just hanging around enjoying the sun and the view. Lots of people stroll along this park with their dogs too. In my case, I had a grand time people-watching :).

palisades park.bikerpalisades park.relax on the grasspalisades.frolic

Little Boy never hesitated making friends with the dogs' owners just so he could play with them.

Little Boy never hesitated making friends with the dogs’ owners just so he could play with them. He did this the whole time and this “trick” never failed!

Palisades Park is also a perfect place for picnics. It has table sets around the park that give you a breathtaking view of the beach and the ocean.

Palisades Park is also a perfect place for picnics. It has table sets around the park that give you a breathtaking view of the beach and the ocean while enjoying your packed lunch.

palisades street sign

SANTA MONICA BEACH
On days that we’re in for some more walking, we would take the steep trail going down the Pacific Coast Highway to get to Santa Monica Beach.

sta monica trailSince going up and down this trail is quite a workout (think 4kms on an inclined treadmill), we made this stroll at the beach part of our regular morning routine.

But you wouldn't mind the long walk if you have this as your view, would you? Eye on the prize!

But you wouldn’t mind the long walk if you have this as your view, would you? Eye on the prize!

Finally, ze Beach!

sta monica beach.birds

A few more steps and you'll reach the famous Sta. Monica Pier.

A few more steps and you’ll reach the famous Sta. Monica Pier.

sta monica beach

 Although California doesn’t exactly have a freezing winter in December, the temperature at that time was at 16°C.  To any Asian who comes from the tropics, you would be crazy to be at the beach in this weather.  But I guess we’d be more crazy if we miss the California beach experience. Besides, 16°C was to be the warmest temperature we would face in this entire U.S. trip so we might as well.

Little Boy had been nagging us for a swim, he backed out because of the freezing water.

Little Boy had been nagging us for a swim, he backed out because of the freezing water.

If you're not into walking, there's the famous Perry's bike rental shop to help you get around the stretch of Santa Monica Beach.

If you’re not into walking, there’s the famous Perry’s bike rental shop to help you get around the stretch of Santa Monica Beach.

This beach is a perfect spot for frolics, packed breakfast and even making out.  See? Free fun and cheap thrills!

sta monica beach.frolickssta monica beach.picnicsta monica beach.kissing

‘Til my next post, see ya!

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