Sunday, May 20, 2012

Announcing: "Top Ten Free Things to do in New York City" blog series

9.11 Memorial, South Tower

Now that summer has arrived and my schedule is somewhat less hectic (somewhat of a lie, but I'll pretend for a couple of weeks at least), I am going to start a new blog series labeled "top ten free things to do in New York City."  It will canvas more than only 10 items, but by the end, I will identify my top 10.

This is in keeping with the Mormon theme, as we of the Latter-day Saint faith, who often have many more children and donate more of our income towards charity through tithing than the average Joe, are notoriously cheap.  (Have you ever heard how Mitt Romney pops his popcorn before going to the movie theater and then smuggles it in because he thinks the popcorn at the theaters is too exorbitant?  True story.)

We had our first official house guest this weekend since moving to the city, and it gave me an excuse to begin seeing a few sites.  And it led to some discoveries of the free variety.

The first was free concerts and events at Julliard.  A-maz-ing!  We went to Romeo and Julliard one night (rivaled even Globe Theatre productions - no joke) and a senior dance concert the next.  Exceptional talent, and I'm picky.  And this is a regular occurrence.  According to the calendar, there are multiple free events every night.  Not unsurprisingly, I heard about the concerts from another Mormon.

The next discovery was the 9.11 memorial at the site of the twin towers, for which you can sign up for free tickets here.  It was quite moving.  I am a massive fan of the monuments in DC, but this tops them all.

The best pictures do not do this monument justice.  The cascading water along the perimeter of the memorial fountains outline the edge of where the buildings had been in fine lines of water mirroring what the exterior of the buildings looked like.  The affect also provided a mirror to the heights of the buildings: instead of rising high into the air, they feel deep into the earth.  Names of those the calamity claimed were  etched in the bronze railing/leaning post that protected passers by from falling into the fountain.  In the center of both memorial fountains was an even deeper water fall into which, no matter what angle, participants could not view the bottom, capturing the despair the tragedy inspired.

Overall, the memorials functioned dually as a grave for both building and people.  This latter fact was powerfully struck when two gentlemen came up to where my friend and I were standing by the north tower fountain and found the name of a friend who had been killed.  They then proceeded to point out the brother, another victim, and then two friends, all memorialized close to each other and with whom they had worked.  I imagined the massive coordination effort of placing victim's names next to each other according to family's requests.  The remains of these people were likely never found, and so these really were the place of final rest.  Funerals are difficult enough with bodies.  I can't imagine not being able to grieve with the healing aid of the body to help bring closure.

In contrast to the despair and honor the memorials evoked, new buildings were rising high into the air, tributes to hope and American pluck.

As cheesy as it sounds, I was proud and honored to be an American.  (Queue national anthem...)

In any event, if you have a chance to visit New York, regardless of your budget, may I recommend you consider this memorial as one of your first stops.

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