Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Person to Person History

Monday was on off day for our planned events.  The museums we had on our "maybe list" were closed on Monday, so the morning was set aside for visiting the World Trade Center site and other downtown sites like Federal Hall, Wall Street, and famous churches.

We took an express subway train and came out right by Trinity Church, completed in 1846.  It's a standout among the other buildings of Wall Street.

A few short blocks and we were at the massive construction site of World Trade Center.  The area is more massive in person than I imagined.  We planned to take a guided tour of the site but had a short while before the Tribute Center opened, so we peered in the windows next door at Ladder 10, one of many FDNY units destroyed on September 11th.  Around the corner of the station was a firefighter memorial that we would find out more about on our tour.  It depicts all the events and tasks that occurred on that day and was donated by a company who had offices in the World Trade Centers.  One of this company's employees was a volunteer firefighter who gave his life helping others on that day.

We were one of the first in the door of the Tribute Center and had time to wander through the exhibits.  Finishing early, Chad suggested we ask a helpful gentleman with a volunteer tag what his connection was with the events of September 11th.  The theme of the Tribute Center is Person to Person History which involves those directly affected by the events sharing their stories with others.  These volunteers have tags asking the visitor to ask them about their story.  So we did, and this was the first of the amazing history I learned.  This gentleman, Victor Guarnera, was the Chief Technical Advisor for Security at the World Trade Center.  He left his office in the South Tower(first to collapse) and went to the Security Center in the North Tower(first hit) to help.  He was one of the last ones out of the North Tower before it collapsed.  To hear his story in his own words was priceless, and for him to volunteer to help others learn details of the tragedy is just amazing.  He has written his account of the day and can be read on the National 911 Memorial website.

Our main tour guide did a great job giving us a tour of the Trade Center site and the area surrounding the site.  She was out of the country at the time of the attacks, but was employed by the Port Authority.  Pictures of the destruction and attacks were shown while looking at the construction that is in progress.  Another guide walked with us holding a portable speaker for the main guide's microphone.  Midway through the tour, this second guide told us her story, and it was devastating.  Her name is Ann, and her husband John was a firefighter on FDNY Rescue 2 and was killed in the collapse.  With two young daughters, her life was changed in an instant.  Now almost 10 years after the event, she was telling her story to strangers and left the whole tour group speechless.  After the tour ended at the Eleven Tears Memorial in the American Express Building, Chad and I thanked her for telling her story and after talking for a bit, she encouraged us to stop in and visit any fire station and stop by the FDNY Fire Zone.

The tour ended on the other side of the World Trade Center site from where we began, so we walked around the rest of the area and to St. Paul's Chapel.  St. Paul's has survived imminent danger many times since it was constructed.  Although right across the street from the Trade Center site, the church survived the collapses of the towers without even a broken window.  The chapel was used as a collection site for rescuers during the recovery process.  There are many displays still remaining from the memorials established in the days, weeks and months after the attacks including a display of patches from fire departments around the world.

We had checked in at FDNY Ten House after making it around the site, but were told to come back in a short bit so we headed to Federal Hall and Wall Street.  The boys got the requisite stamps in their National Parks booklets and we were quickly headed back to the station.  Ladder 10 was out but we were able to share some time with a couple firefighters from Engine 10 and buy some t-shirts for Chad and the kids.  One of the firefighters was with Ten House in 2001 and he showed us some special memorials in the station and some pictures from that day.  The station was damaged during the attacks and didn't reopen for two years.

Here are some pictures from our day:
World Trade Center construction site

The black structures behind the trees are fountains built in the footprints of the North & South towers

One World Trade Center(Freedom Tower) halfway up
Pool of Tears in the lobby of the American Express World Financial Center Building

St. Paul's Chapel has stood throughout history
St. Paul's Chapel
Police and Fire exhibit in St. Paul's Chapel

Ladder 10 "Still Standing"
The boys on Engine 10

Ten House Memorial to 9/11

Engine 10 door from 9/11/01
Who put this ding on the side of Engine 10?

Henry did it! Good thing they labeled it so Henry doesn't forget what he did.