Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New York City, Here I Come!

What a wonderful way to begin my new life in remission – a trip to New York City! I haven’t been there in decades, not since my sister and her husband lived in Manhattan. I used to visit them and take the subways all over to visit the museums and sights. The purpose of this trip was different. We were invited to my cousin Bill’s Change of Command service. He is now the Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Station on Staten Island, which includes Homeland Security, as well as search and rescue. We arrived Thursday night and enjoyed visiting with all the other relatives who came, about 17 in all. We stayed at the Navy Lodge on the base, and the service was wonderful. The receptionist in the front office even printed out our boarding passes for the return flight! Friday morning was the ceremony, at 10:00 on July 13, 2012, right on the New York Bay. It was a beautiful setting. And that afternoon Bill took all of us out on a 45-foot Coast Guard rescue boat for a tour of the Hudson Harbor. Those rescue boats are FAST! We had to wear life jackets and hold onto the railing if we were on the back of the boat (as opposed to being in the cabin, which most of us were NOT IN, because it was small). We were going about 20-24 knots, and that wasn’t the top speed! The boats can go 40 knots! The picture of the spray, which started in the middle of the boat, can give you an idea of how fast we were going. When we got to the Statue of Liberty, the boat stopped for photo opportunities. One picture shows Al and I sitting on the back of the boat with the Statue of Liberty behind us, with our hair blowing in the wind! We could see lower Manhattan with the two new towers being built to replace the Trade Centers. They are called Freedom Towers. We could also see Jersey Shore, Ellis Island, and the stone ramparts of Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island. This boat trip was one of the highlights of our five-day stay in New York. Being on this small boat reminded me of the many hours I spent as a child on my Uncle Charlie’s deep sea diving excursions when we visited him in Tybee Island, Georgia.
The next day, Saturday, we took the Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan and then walked to the 911 Memorial. It was a very moving and spiritual experience. There are now two square pools with 30-foot waterfalls on all four sides, where the original Trade Centers stood. The names of all who perished there are engraved in stone on the edges of the pools. They are building a museum but it is not open yet. There are walkways, grassy areas, and benches where one can sit and contemplate the meaning of the memorial, the impact it had on New Yorkers, and the impact it has had on the lives of all Americans. The visitors spoke in soft voices and, despite the tragedy that led to the memorial, I had a feeling of serenity while I sat there. While listening to the soothing sounds of the cascading waterfalls, I was thinking about how lucky I am to live in a country where all life is considered sacred and worthy of saving. I again felt a deep appreciation for all our military personnel who have fought for our rights, past and present. I thank God that I live in the United States of America! I have lived and traveled overseas in many other countries and so I have something to which I can compare life here. Other countries have their strong points, too – a sense of community and hospitality that we have lost due to our mobile lifestyle, extended families that foster utmost respect for elders, and small neighborhood shops where the owners know their customers.
It was hot and humid in New York. Al and I planned this trip back in March, before we knew there was going to be a heat wave and drought over most of the country this summer. Once we got to Manhattan, we had a 15 minute walk from the Staten Island Ferry to the 911 Memorial, or as some people refer to it, Ground Zero. Admission to the Memorial was free but you have to reserve your visit for a specific day and time of the day and get a ticket before you go. You can only go at the time written on your ticket. We were warned that the ferry may be crowded on a Saturday so we left early. I was trusting in God that I would be able to walk the distance and get there on time. There were 14 of us going and I didn’t want to hold everybody up and make us miss our time. Well, I am happy to report that my practice on the treadmill paid off when it came to stamina and endurance! However, I always exercised indoors, with air conditioning. Walking in the heat and humidity was altogether different! I became breathless three to four times on the walk, but I was watching the time and I was determined to make it to Ground Zero by 11:00 o’clock! I told the others to go ahead of me and I would catch up, but they stopped and waited for me. We actually arrived at the entrance ten minutes early! Thank you, Jesus! Another miracle in my life, and this one in New York City! I give God the glory, as usual! 
The other three pictures show the Coast Guard rescue boat, the 911 memorial with one of the pools and one Freedom Tower being built.

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