When my 24-year-old granddaughter, Maika, who has visited New York every year for the past 14 years, said that she had never been to the top of the Empire State Building, I promised to take her there. This is not something that New Yorkers generally do unless we’re entertaining out-of-town or out-of-country guests – the last time I went up there was twenty years ago when Salamsing, who had been my husband’s and my trekking guide in Nepal, had visited us.
I am so glad that Maika and I went. We chose September 11, partly because of its symbolic meaning and partly because it was a cool, crisp, clear evening when our views of New York City would be the best possible. Probably because of the sad anniversary the crowds were much lighter than usual and so we had very little waiting time. Also because of this memorable date we were able to see the Tribute in Light, the two columns of light created by 88 searchlights that rose up in the sky next to the Freedom Tower, still under construction at the September 11 Memorial site. The Tribute is produced every year for this one night to offer a surreal remembrance of the attacks and of those who had perished in the towers that once stood in its place.
Seeing this huge metropolis spread out below us – lights aglow in building after building, car traffic running smoothly, a picture of a city going about its business – provided a comforting sense of the way we recovered from those ghastly attacks. Although no one will never forget the horror of that day and its aftermath and all those innocents who died in that madness, the utter normality of the vista spread out before our eyes represented to me the strength and vitality of this post-attack cityscape.
Maika’s and my visit was remarkably easy to manage. I bought our tickets online and printed them out at home, went to the building’s entrance on Fifth Avenue, and were greeted at every juncture, from the front door to the elevator to every floor and every vantage point by smiling uniformed guards. Although I know that New Yorkers’ reputation for being unfriendly is undeserved, even I was impressed by the extent of how helpful so many of the guides were – giving us information about the buildings below, offering to take our pictures, and giving us snippets of local history.
And of course it meant so much to me to be sharing this experience with my granddaughter and seeing it through her eyes. One of the great joys of grandchildren is to give us a fresh view of the world around us.