#1,823 NYC Family Vacation Day 4.

We have laughed until we cried, then laughed harder because we cried, then laughed harder until it hurt and then until we felt sick and then we went back to the hotel room.

The morning started off pretty somber with tired eyes and achey feet from yesterday’s marathon touring. We went to the French bakery downstairs for pastries before splitting up for the afternoon. While Jim and Mallorie watched some of his clients play in the Giants/Redskins game from the sidelines…

We finally got to take the 9/11 museum tour. And it was just completely heartbreaking. It still seems so clear in my memory, that September morning in 10th grade, but my perspective is limited because of my setting. I was experiencing the tragedy of it from Mississippi. At the time I was only watching the aftermath of it on a television and imagining the devastation of what it would be like to BE there, to be a New Yorker in 2001. But to be walking underneath those memorial waterfalls, in the footprint of the buildings, in the very spot where the towers stood, the place from which so many people didn’t come home from work that day, was chilling.

This steel beam…

Was located at the point of impact where the first plane hit the north tower. They know this because every single material, every single piece from the construction of the WTC, had its own unique serial number. Each beam, window, and bolt.

These are called the survivor stairs, and they were a preferred method of escape for the survivors that day because they were partially covered which kept them safe from debris in the air. They were originally located on Vesey street, and were moved to this location before the building of the museum began. They’re so large and so heavy, the museum had to be built around them.

I wanted so badly to see the steel cross that was left in the rubble. I wasn’t supposed to take a photo of it either, but I snuck one anyway for you fine folks.

This is what’s left of the foundation of the buildings at the lowest level in the footprint. The depth and size of the space felt frightening.

And this is fascinating… A piece of a Bible was found melted onto a piece of twisted metal debris. It was turned to Matthew chapter 5, which reads “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Does that not make your hair stand on end a little?

I felt hot tears in my eyes at so many points in the 2 hour tour. The hardest thing for me to grapple with in the exhibit were not allowed to be photographed. The personal belongings of people who were lost in the attack, covered in dust. Their receipts from birthday parties the night before, their shoes, their Metrocards, their fire helmets, their personal stationery. Some of these things were found 5 blocks from ground zero. Some of their bodies were not recovered. Sadder than that, was listening to the voicemails left by those calling from the towers. I listened to one that said, “Julie, this is Sean. There’s been an accident. A plane hit the tower a few floors below us, but I’m fine. They won’t let us leave the building yet, but I’ll call you again as soon as they do.” Later, another message. His voice sounded grave, deeply worried but trying to sound confident. “Julie, we’re still here. It seems to be serious. I’m still okay but there’s so much smoke. It’s hard to breathe. I’m trying to get home to you. I love you.” And a few moments later, he was lost in the collapse. It completely broke my heart. If you’re ever able to visit the museum, please go. You’ll learn so much about the brave people who were there. Some of them are the docents who lead the tours, which is amazing.

Afterward, I wanted to shake the gloom that had settled into my mind and heart, so we walked across the way to Century 21, the epitome of the New York Christmas department store, full of cheer and happy music.

We headed to La Esquina to grab lunch, at Lindsey’s recommendation and we were totally crazy about it. It’s an odd, tiny little taqueria hidden inside a building called the Corner Deli, that serves only a few authentic Mexican dishes—tortas, tacos, quesadillas, and sides like plantains or chips and house made salsa. We had a little of all of it, but can’t get over the plantains. They were bananas sauteed and caramelized in sugar, tossed with fresh guacamole and goat cheese. It was a salty sweet wonder that was different from anything I’ve ever tasted in my life. I really might go get some more of that tomorrow before we head to the Berkshires.

We finally met back up with Jim and Mal after the game was over for some browsing around the shops in Greenwich Village. We stumbled upon an adorable nook called The Meadow that sells 3 things: fancy salts, craft chocolates, and fresh flowers. So weird and wonderful, like a lot of things we discovered on our touring today.

We got so cold after a while, that we ducked into one of mine and Ben’s lower east side favorites from the past, Schiller’s!

This is where we had our first date with Josh and Anne back in 2010.

 Jim ordered a drink and we all shared an appetizer to get our blood moving again in the frigid weather.

And soon, it was time to start making our way to our dinner reservation at Minetta Tavern, where the laughing started and didn’t stop until 11:30 pm.

This historic restaurant was a favorite of 2 of my favorite men from history: Ernest Hemingway and James J. Braddock. There’s something magic about the way an old New York restaurant makes me feel. It’s like stepping into a time machine and you can feel the warmth of all the happy, boisterous, celebrations of the past that have happened there. You can feel part of something that’s been happening a long time before you and will continue long after you’re gone. The staff at Minetta were the best part of the whole experience, never making us feel out of place with our thick southern accents and ill knowledge of the French language, but making us laugh every time they visited our table. Peter, Henry, Sabir, Ben and Jim were best friends by the time we finally left.

We tried to walk outside twice, long after the tab had been paid, but when I went back in to try and retrieve Big Ben again, I found him ringing a bell yelling, “Merry Christmas!” at the bartender’s prodding. They said he looked like a young Santa Claus (you know how Ben loved that), and wanted to know all about Mississippi. I know we’ll be back again—if not for the best burger I’ve ever tasted, for the company of the waitstaff.

I’m so in love with this city tonight. And I’m so glad we had a little of our family here to share it with.