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Two Sundays in NYC - Jan. 11 and Jan. 25.

Author: RichardNika
Email: Corona70@aol.com (More Trip Reviews by RichardNika)
Date of Trip: January 2009

new york harbor city nyc skylineI've reported on my day trips to NYC before. We live in Miami Beach, and take advantage of Ft. Lauderdale-based (FLL) Spirit Airlines, their wonderful on-line $9 Club sales, and the fact that they have a VERY early morning - 5:10 AM! - nonstop to New York's LaGuardia (LGA). Nowadays, my wife and I go together. We're in Manhattan by 8:30 to 9:00 AM, and our departing flight leaves at 9:00 PM. That leaves about nine hours to do our thing before heading back to LGA.

Sunday, Jan. 11, we parked as usual at Park'n'Fly - they cost a little more than airport longterm parking, but you can reserve a space and pay for it on line. and their shuttles are constant and quick, and they have a system of taking you right to your car when you return - no need to search for it. As usual, the floor of the waiting area in front of the still-closed security gates was half-covered with sleeping travelers. Finally passing through security, the "puffer" was being used on some of the passengers; persons who had taken their shoes off had to put them back on to go through it and then take them off again - fortunately, I was not chosen for that!

Usually, I bring quarters to take advantage of a lower cash fare, but this time we'd be using subways, so we bought one day MetroCards, went out and caught the M60 bus to 125th street. Usually, we get off at Fifth Avenue and take the M1 bus to the Metropolitan Museum, but, as Monty Python used to say, "now for something completely different." We debarked at Amsterdam Avenue instead and took the train to the Broadway/Nassau station in lower Manhattan. It was chilly, and there was very little snow, but plenty of slush and ice. New York in winter.

A year ago, I read Ron Chernow's wonderful new biography of Alexander Hamilton - his closeness with Washington, his rise to greatness, his brilliant creation of our entire economic and monetary system, his emotional difficulties in his final decade and, of course, his tragic death in the 1804 duel with Aaron Burr. "Oh Burr, Oh Burr, what hast thou done / Thou hast shot dead great Hamilton / You hid behind a clump of thistle / And shot him dead with a great hoss pistol!" I had decided to honor him by going to his grave and, in recognition of his accomplishments, leaving a dollar bill upon it. Yes, I know, his picture is on the $10 bill, but I wasn't feeling quite that generous!

broadway nassau subway station new york city nyc gateThe Broadway/Nassau station contains three extraordinary tiled murals of maritime NY-area history scenes and a magnificently decorated gate. We exited at Fulton and Broadway. In front of it was St. Paul's Chapel - actually a full Episcopal church - and, to one side and behind it, the cemetery. And directly behind that was the vast flat sea of metal roofs where the Twin Towers had once stood.

St. Paul's Chapel dates from 1766, and is where George Washington and his retinue went to pray after he was inaugurated nearby on April 30, 1789. My daughter and I had been there in January, 2002, one day after the 9/11 observation deck was opened. The fence in front of the church had been totally covered with memorials of every kind - heart wrenching letters and "have you seen...?" pleas, photos, flags, teddy bears... People had written things on every available writing surface in the area - sawhorses, poles, temporary wooden walls. The church itself was being used as a base for rescue and recovery workers and volunteers, and was closed to the public. When the Towers came down, literally next door, not one gravestone was damaged and not one of the church windows was even cracked.

Now, the wrought iron fence was just a fence - the sawhorses, wooden walls and platform were gone - the neighborhood was back to normal, if that word is even suitable. The church was open; we went inside. The interior was beautiful, by no means huge yet spacious. There were no pews save those that had belonged to Washington and to George Clinton, who served as governor of NY State for a total of 21 years and as vice-president for seven years. Wooden chairs were arranged around a central area, and a friendly young priest said I could take photos until the service began in 20 more minutes.

st pauls church new york city nyc memorial 9/11 september 11All around the interior were 9/11-related memorials, memorabilia and photos. Both the victims and the countless volunteers and recovery workers were memorialized and commemorated with explanatory signs, photos and other things. I almost "lost it" when I came upon a vast collection of the same things that had once lined the fence out front. I thought I recognized one of the photo. The church had set out a table of bagels, croissants and such. We had eaten a big breakfast at McDonalds before boarding the subway, but I took a bit of a bagel simply for the sake of participation.

At the front end of the church, raised up and against the interior wall, was a tall colorful sculpture called 'Glory.' It has been described as "a rendering of Mount Sinai beset by clouds and lightning, with the Ten Commandments, as delivered by 'YHWH,' featured at the base." The letters were in Hebrew. It was weeks after the trip when I read that it had been designed by Pierre Charles L'Enfant. Yes, the same French emigre who also designed the city of Washington, DC.

We stayed for part of the service. It was a sweet service, partly sung by a woman who also read prayers, with a short sermon delivered by an African-American bishop in magnificently colored garb.

new york city nyc bell of hopeExiting, we entered the cemetery, which had also been closed to the public when I'd last been there. Most of the stones and memorials were very old, some barely readable, some not readable at all. Many of the burials had occurred before 1800. On a stone pedestal was 'The Bell of Hope," a large church bell, similar to the Liberty Bell, and cast by the same British foundry. It had been presented to the Chapel and to the city by the Lord Mayor of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury on September 11, 2002. It'd's rung every September 11, and was also rung on the tragic occasions of the London and Madrid terrorist bombings. Next to the rear wall of the church is a huge and carefully preserved and cleaned sycamore tree stump and root. This tree, a century old, had been knocked down on 9/11.

I stepped back and looked out across the cemetery and, adjoining it, the space where the Towers had stood. Then I looked up, as if I could visualize, up there in the clouds, the restaurant, Windows on the World, 102 floors up, where, 20 years earlier, I had treated two of my three daughters to a late evening dinner and an unbelievable view of the city.

Trinity Cathedral, part of the same Episcopal Diocese as St. Paul's, is four blocks south, at the foot of Broadway - and of Manhattan Island. It is truly a cathedral, and services were in progress. I went through a door and into a rear area where their museum was - it was closed - and was hustled out of there quickly after photographing a magnificent memorial plaque to Hamilton.

My wife and I took a pew near the rear. A woman in front of us kindly helped us to find the right pages for the hymns and prayers. We're Jewish, but we sang and spoke along with what wasn't specifically Christian. After all, wasn't Jesus a Jew as well?

The rear door I'd gone through earlier opened and a ceremonial procession emerged, led by children and then by lay men and women and clergy, many carefully holding tall religious symbols. It was wonderful to watch - they passed right by us, and back down the middle aisle.

After a short while, we left, and entered the cathedral's cemetery. It was time to pay my respects to Mr. Hamilton. His memorial, just inside the fence by a street, is close to that of Robert Fulton, inventor of the steamboat. Just under Hamilton's memorial is a ground-level stone for his wife, Eliza, who survived into the 1850s, a living remembrance of the founding of the nation generations earlier.

alexander hamilton grave tombstone new york city nycI took out my dollar bill. My wife expressed embarrassment even though there was no one else around, but I had to do it. It was breezy, so I tucked it under a fallen branch on the pedestal, amidst the frozen slush. She protested that someone would take it. I said, yes, I know, it will probably end up either with a homeless person or in the church donation box. Either, I told her, would be fine with me.

We exited and walked west along Battery Place. To our left was a large park and then the harbor waters. We quickly came to Castle Clinton, former fort, immigration processing base - from 1855 to 1890, after which it was replaced by Ellis island, which served into the 1940s and processed my wife's and my grandparents, among others, and then served as the city aquarium from 1896 to 1941. In 1950, it became a national monument. Inside are large renderings of the city from the early 1800s, the late 1800s, and the 1940s. Even in the late 1800s, the skyline was still dominated by church spires. Close by were the ticket office and docks for boats to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

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