A few weeks ago, on a whim, the boys and I took a detour from our errands to stop at Liberty State Park. I thought they might get a kick out of seeing the old train station, which, in my recollection contained a cornucopia of old train cars upon which children could gallivant and explore. (Plus when one is raising white males in this political climate and trying to explain why we march for immigration reform, laying eyes on that lady in the harbor seemed like just the balm to ease our outrage fatigue.)
There are, in reality, three train cars in the park. None of which you can climb upon. And none even with windows so that a child might peek inside of them. For the wee, it is, in a word BORING.
But, as I mentioned, it had been years since I’d been there. And we’d driven most of an hour out of our way to make this pitstop, so I dragged two hungry, listless, and angry children through the historic Communipaw Terminal where they were unmoved by the century-old luggage before them. The model trains elicited only eye rolls.
So we journeyed outside, towards the water. Rocco and I each lifted a kid about the pier railings so that they could see Lady Liberty poking out above Ellis Island. “I want to see her face,” my youngest whined.
“She’s not for us. She’s for them. She’s welcoming them. S0 she needs to face the sea,” I answered before putting him down to search my purse for a granola bar I might have forgotten about. He stomped off in the other direction. As my eyes followed him, I finally noticed it. The memorial. “The Empty Sky.”
Rocco noticed it at the same time. We noticed each other notice it, silently. We moved towards it together, the kids running circles around us, before each walking through the memorial alone. Tourists beamed at its entrance, snapping family photos. The incongruity of a selfie-stick in profile against the engraved names on the marble walls somehow compelled me to take a photo as well. Perhaps as a stall tactic to try and find the words to answer Paul when he asked, “What is this thing?” Mercifully he didn’t wait for an answer before shouting, “Wait for me!” to his brother already exiting the monument and sprinting after him.
My dad said to me the other day, “When you’ve lived as long as I have, you learn just how many tragedies and corruptions a democracy can survive.” And yes, my kids totally interrupted that somber moment with rapid movement and screaming, too.
I love this country. I love New York City, too – my forever adopted home. I love these screaming kids and my perspective-wielding father. I love that I’m here to be awed and inspired by people working to remember, to memorialize, to serve, to improve, to resist.
I don’t want to talk about that day. (And no, I’ll never forget. But I also don’t need to relive every detail.) But I’ve been thinking an awful lot about how we as a city and a nation came together after that day, if only temporarily. And I wonder if we can ever get there again without a tragedy. Without that loss of life.
I think so. I hope so.
I wouldn’t be trying so hard if I didn’t believe it was so.
I also believe strongly in celebrating every day we’ve got on this earth. So I’ll leave you with a super vintage Ukulele Friday from my previous visit to Communipaw Terminal on the incredibly cold ground with the talented Bridget Callahan. And if you want to honor our fellow Americans who fell September 11th, may I suggest you do so by celebrating this democracy and confirm you’re registered to vote in the coming midterms.