It appears that I am not a very good blogger. When I started this blog before our trip to Italy and the Adriatic last spring I had every intention of keeping the blog updated during or shortly after our travels. I thought I did a pretty good job on that trip, but I completely fell off the wagon once that was over.

Here I am, facing the very last hours of 2017 and writing about our trip in October. Yes, that’s right, October! I have no excuse unless “life” is an excuse. Time just got away from me! So without further ado, here’s the first installment of our trip to NJ and foliage cruise…

This trip had been a long time in the making. We booked the cruise well over a year in advance and chose Princess because we had a pretty decent credit as compensation for some problems on our cruise in December 2015. After we booked we reached out to family (on both sides) with our plans and much to our surprise and delight ended up with my mom, one of my sisters, and both of Jim’s sisters and their husbands in our travel group. Once we realized who was joining us I started getting nervous…what if the two sides of the family didn’t get along? One of Jim’s sisters had never cruised. What if she hated it? We had some pretty serious problems with our cabin in 2015. What if that was the new norm and the ship was blah? All my worries were for naught. We all got along, the ship was lovely, and we had so much fun we’re talking about our next group trip!

One thing I didn’t count on was thinking about anything but the cruise in the days leading up to the trip. My life and my normal careful planning were interrupted by Harvey. Even though we (thankfully) didn’t have any damage to our home, our neighborhood and area of town were hit hard and a lot of my time in the weeks leading up to the cruise was spent doing what I could to help neighbors.

With Harvey in the rear view mirror and the need for volunteers waning, I finally came out of my hurricane haze in late September with just a few days to get everything ready and we were off! We flew to NJ the Tuesday before our Saturday cruise so we could spend a few extra days with my mom and family. We didn’t do a lot while we were in NJ, but we did take a much anticipated trip into the city to go to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

I had a lump in my throat that morning as we approached the site…I still have a hard time flying into or out of Newark and looking at the skyline, or driving on Route 17 in NJ and seeing one building where there should be two. I had only been down to lower Manhattan once in the years since 2001, and at the time the area was still a construction site. I think my anxiety was not knowing what to expect, and hoping the museum was well thought-out and respectful, which in my opinion it was. The only thing I thought was a little odd was the selling of tchotchkes such as key chains and Christmas ornaments in the gift shop, but maybe that’s just me. Those belong at the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore, but I’m not sure they are appropriate to commemorate a site where thousands died in a terrorist attack.

We went straight to the museum since we had tickets for a small group tour at 10:00. The museum is mostly underground, and is built within the footprint of the original World Trade Center. Parts of the original structures, such as the slurry (retaining) wall and support columns were incorporated into the museum.

Near the slurry wall is the last column – the last piece of the original structure to be removed from the ruins. On the column are many missing posters, mementos and messages left in the days and weeks following the tragedy.

Ladder 3 pays silent tribute to the magnitude of the destruction:

Also on display in the museum is what has come to be known as the Survivors’ Staircase. The Vesey Street stairs were the only above ground structure still standing after the collapse of the twin towers. They provided a vital escape route for hundreds of people from 5 World Trade Center.

To me, the most meaningful and moving sections of the museum are within Memorial Hall. Upon entering Memorial Hall, visitors are greeted by an enormous display made up of thousands of blue squares. Titled “Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning,” each uniquely colored blue square represents one of the 2001 and 1993 victims of the terrorist attacks. Behind the wall are areas that aren’t open to the general public. The Medical Examiner’s Office has a facility in this area as identification of victims continues even to this day. The other off limits area is a Reflection Room available only to victims’ families.

There are two other very moving exhibits that can’t be photographed. One is the Memorial Exhibit where photographs and videos of the victims are displayed together with voice remembrances from their loved ones. The other is the Historical Exhibit, where all types of artifacts from the day are on display. Here visitors can see everything from shoes to desk contents to wallets to a crushed ambulance. We spent about 4 & 1/2 hours inside the museum and it wasn’t enough. I could have spent an entire day in just these two exhibits and still not feel like I had seen everything.

After we exited the museum we walked over to Memorial Plaza. Tragically I knew one person who died in the attack. We found Danny’s name on the wall surrounding the pool that sits within the footprint of the original towers, and spent some time in quiet reflection.

I noticed something that bothered me while we were at the Memorial, and that’s the tourist attraction effect. There were some young adults hamming it up and posing for selfies right in front of one of the pools. It seems to me that it’s easy for the reason for the site to get lost in a sea of souvenir vendors and throngs of tourists, but I’m not sure what can be done to stop it. As time passes there will be fewer and fewer people who remember the day and what we lost, and I think it’s important that the WTC site doesn’t become just another bucket list item on tourists’ itineraries.