[Sorry for the huge delay in getting back to this story. No excuses.]
Our next stop for the day was Wall Street. The Dwenger group was divided between two ferries from Ellis Island back to Battery Park. The girls and I were on the first ferry so we had time to watch some of the street performers entertaining the masses in the park. Some of the students were pulled into the performance as one of the performers made a running leap over six of the kids.
Once the entire group was back together, Elise the Tour Escort led us through the park and up Broadway towards Wall Street. We paused long enough to get pictures of Charging Bull, the large bronze statue and iconic fixture of the financial district. Once we reached the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street Elise stopped to point out the church across the street. Somewhere in the distance I heard a familiar squeal of delight followed by a familiar face pushing towards me through the crowd. It was my goddaughter and she was more excited than I had ever seen her before.
Pointing at the church, she asked, “Do you know what that is? Do you KNOW what THAT is?” Her head darted back and forth between the church and me.
All I could manage was a shrug of my shoulders before Abby answered her own question. “It’s the First Trinity Church from National Treasure! That’s where Ben Gates found the treasure!”
Aahhh, I thought. THAT explains the excitement.
National Treasure and its sequel were two of Abby’s favorite movies. I wanted to laugh at her but knew that if I happened upon the cantina from Star Wars I’d be acting just as crazily.
Recognition of the old church had finally set in on me, so I told her, “I’ll be damned. It is the-“
“You have to get a picture of it! Please? Please, will you take a picture of it? Pleeeaase?” she begged.
“Oh, for the love of God. Settle down,” I told her with a grin. I took a few pictures then showed her the shots to make sure they met with her approval.
“Thank you!” she squeaked out before giving me a kiss on my cheek. “I love you!” she shouted as she ran back to her friends.
One of the moms in our group approached me as I stood there grinning at Abby and her antics. “You look like you enjoyed that,” she said with a smile.
I shot her a grin as I told her, “Only every second of it.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
From Wall Street we went up a few blocks to St. Paul’s Chapel located across from the World Trade Center. Built in 1764, St. Paul’s is the chapel where George Washington worshipped on his Inauguration Day in 1789 and during the two years New York City served as the nation’s capital. The chapel also served as a place of refuge for recovery workers at Ground Zero following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Located less than one hundred yards from the Twin Towers, the chapel miraculously survived the destruction without so much as a broken window on that horrific day.
As we approached the chapel my eyes were drawn to the new Freedom Tower, which was just under halfway to its completed height. In my mind’s eye I could still see the Twin Towers in all their majesty just I had seen them during my second trip to New York. The memories of 9/11 were still a fresh wound nearly ten years later, however, and my mind was becoming filled with images of the planes hitting the towers from every recorded angle that had been shown over the years.
I closed my eyes to try to shut out the terrible images. It didn’t work. The agony from that day was returning. I thanked God for His intervention in preventing me from visiting Ground Zero just a few months after the attacks. I could feel a lump growing in my throat and the tears that nearly always accompanied one. Ordinarily I would have fought back against the feelings but was prepared to let them cut loose this time. Maggie pulled me back from the edge.
“What are you doing, silly? We’re going inside,” she said as she took hold of my hand. I snapped to and followed her lead into the chapel.
The chapel’s interior was a pleasant surprise. The hall was bright and cheery. There was a simple elegance to it unlike the overly ornate churches and cathedrals I had been in before. This was a chapel I would feel comfortable in.
Several displays filled with memorabilia of 9/11 were on hand: a timeline of events lined one wall; a policeman’s uniform festooned with patches from police and fire departments across the country; banners of hope, love, and comfort; and a memorial altar filled with the photos of missing loved ones that had been left at the chapel.
The lump in my throat was returning. I had to step outside.
I managed to avoid looking directly at the Freedom Tower. Instead, I was drawn to a bell near the chapel’s cemetery. It was a memorial to 9/11. I shut my eyes once more and decided to just let go. Before I could do that, though, my travel buddy came to my rescue again.
Putting her arm around my shoulder, Maggie asked me what I was doing outside.
“Just thinking about that awful day,” I answered as I looked at her with watery eyes.
“Awww. Have you been crying?” she asked. She wrapped her arms around me for a big hug. “I’ve never seen you cry.”
“No,” I replied. “It was close, though.” I held her tighter as I fought back the tears. I wished later I had been big enough to let her see them.