New York at Christmas: Part III

My last full day in NYC proved to be very emotional, but it was the best, most-fulfilling one of the entire weekend. After a jolly Saturday, Alex and I headed back to the Financial District for The National September 11 Memorial Museum. Knowing full well that I was going to cry, I wore my most tear-absorbent scarf, ready to go around my neck (yes, this is a real thing).

Upon first entering the museum, we watched a film featuring several leaders of the free world at the time of 9/11 (George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Tony Blair, etc.). I am always very appreciative of these “buffer activities” because it really puts you in the correct mindset for what you’re about to witness.

The layout of the museum itself is very fluid — a mix of artifacts from that day and pieces of art that pay homage to its sorrow and sacrifice. Alex and I both were very moved (you can read about her experience here); for me specifically, the giant mural composed of various shades of blue canvases hit hard. Survivors were asked to try and remember the color of the sky that fateful morning, and because no two interpretations are the same, the end result is the most calming, peaceful mosaic I’ve ever seen. It was hauntingly beautiful.

From the external displays, we then moved into the central exhibits, which lie under the Memorial Fountains where the Twin Towers once stood. We wept at the victims’ tributes, housing pictures of each person who was killed in the attacks. Hearing loved ones remember those lost, seeing everything from a worker’s ID card to a child’s teddy bear, made each memory personable and painful.

The next exhibit is a walk-through of September 11, 2001. You first are shown newspapers printed from that day with people acting as if it was any other September morning. And then the chaos begins — they even show the exact moment on the Today show when Matt Lauer reveals with confusion and horror that one of the Twin Towers was struck by a plane. Witnessing the carnage was disturbing, with contorted firetrucks, shards of glass from falling windows, photographs of terrified citizens and phone calls to loved ones from doomed Americans.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking  thing for me to process was the stories people transcribe of first responders’ heroism. These Americans were going to their deaths, and yet so many accounts speak of how calm and kind they were to the evacuating workers. It was devastating.

But as we made our way through scenes that looked like apocalyptic films, the greatest emotions I felt were pride and gratitude. When the museum first opened, I remember reading about how “this was designed to be everyone’s museum”. I understand now what they mean. You see, this is not some piece of history that I’ve read or heard stories about. I was alive when it happened. I remember being confused as to why people were leaving my 3rd grade class. I can see my principal standing before a much-dwindled down number of elementary school kids explaining that our country had been attacked. I remember seeing an American flag on every car after that day. I can hear “God Bless the USA” patriotically playing on the radio. And I’m so glad Alex and I got to share this very important experience together, just like we all did 14 years ago.

Moving on from the museum, we were eager to explore The High Line, an above-ground park that used to be a part of the Metro Trains. Hopping on board the subway, we knew we’d have about an hour until we needed to go to Times Square for Finding Neverland. Chatting away, Alex looked up several minutes into our ride and commented on the fact that she didn’t really recognize any of the stops. We brushed it off until Alex casually checked her phone’s subway map. Turns out, our little blue dot was chugging along down south instead of heading north….ladies and gentlemen, we were in Brooklyn!

 This mishap coincidentally already occurred when I was in New York with my family….trying to go to a Broadway show. My poor dad…I gave him such a hard time for putting us on the right train going the wrong direction, and here I was pulling the same farce! Luckily Alex is a great sport, so we laughed it off and reminisced on previous travel follies from our European vacation. Thus we made our way back to Manhattan, postponing The High Line for a different New York day.

Finding Neverland was incredible and wonderful and deserves more than a paragraph, so I have resolved to discuss it in another post outside of my New York trip recollection. I wasn’t joking when I said I had a lot to say about my amazing weekend!

 After the show, Alex and I hit up the Disney Store in Times Square, which was decorated for both Christmastime AND Star Wars: truly spectacular! We then made our way to Central Park, gazing at the ice skaters and daydreaming about The Plaza. It was very scenic and picturesque, minus the rats (I may or may not have clutched Alex several times on our walk).

 Alex was eager to take me to Seredipity, a charming New York eaterie famous for their “Frozen Hot Chocolate” (and the John Cusack movie of the same name). During our hour and a half wait time (because it’s just that popular), we browsed Bloomingdale’s and munched on cupcakes from the famed Magnolia Bakery, cause who doesn’t love dessert before dessert?

 All the hype was worth it because OH MY GOSH that frozen hot chocolate was AMAZING! It was the sweetest (see what I did there) end to a perfect weekend with my best friend, Alex. She was so generous to host me, and words will never describe just how much I love our silly dramatics, go-getter mindsets and deep conversations, whether in Texas, Europe or New York.

My expectations for a true New York Christmas were far surpassed, so go exploring this time of year! It was my first big-girl trip that I planned all on my own using all my own funds, and now I can’t wait to see where I’ll go next. Although the glitz and glamour of New York City was wonderful, it was the company I shared that made this trip truly magical.

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