Monuments by moonlight ~ and farewell to Washington D.C.

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You may have already seen my post on Washington  Monuments, and the photos posted there. Most were taken during the day but happily, we also took a night tour with the Bi-Partisan tour company,  when many of these icons are uplighted and make for beautiful photographs. Sadly I can’t say that my photos are beautiful, as I still have to work out the best settings for night photography on my camera,  and often the iPhone doesn’t cut it. Also, on this particular night, the temperature was below zero, so in getting in and out of the bus, my hands were literally frozen, but as promised, monuments by moonlight…..

The White House

The Jefferson Memorial

A closer look – it is magnificent

The National World War II Memorial is dedicated to those who served and civilians alike

The National World War II

The Lincoln Memorial

The Washington monument – it pops up everywhere!

The Eisenhower Executive Office Building

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial – it is patrolled in the evening…

The U.S. Air Force Memorial representing the ‘bomb burst’ manœuvre flown by the Air Force Thunderbirds – it overlooks the Pentagon

The amazing Marine Corps Memorial on Arlington Ridge – commemorating the second flag raising on Iwo Jima

That’s the Pentagon down there ….

St Johns Church – where pre-Inauguration services are held (except for Kennedy who was Catholic)

The Martin Luther King Memorial

Martin Luther King

The Memorial again

The National Christmas Tree

New York and and Washington D.C. are physically very different yet in some ways the same – American society always seems so much larger than life and nothing we saw changes my opinion. New York is a pulsating, edgy, vibrant, and frenetic city. New Yorkers to seem to be in a hurry, charging along the crowded pavements and the streets are clogged with impatient drivers who constantly stand on their horns, blasting fellow drivers and pedestrians alike. Sirens wail day and night and the kaleidscope that is New York life confronts you head on. Yet there is so much to like – for me it was the architecture, the memorials and that iconic New York skyline. What beckons on a return visit are the art galleries and museums we had no time to see…

Washington D.C. is a much more sedate and pristine city with wide streets, redolent of Parisan boulevards, low and elegant buildings (no skyscrapers here), the wonderful Smithsonians and a plethora of memorials celebrating American history, heroes and events – and of course those ubiquitous black government SUV’s. Both cities are exciting and enticing and I surely hope we can return to both again when it is warmer – there are more museums  and galleries to see and the Brooklyn bridge to walk.

Meanwhile plans are afoot to return to Europe in May next year – France, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary and Croatia …. why not come along for the ride?

The Smithsonians ~ and the International Spy Museum …

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If you love museums then Washington D.C. is the place for you. There are 19 Museums in the Smithsonian Institution complex but we managed to cover only two. Most have very impressive architecture, some modern like the African American Museum, the Air and Space Museum and the American Indian Museum and others date from 1855, like the ‘The Castle”,  the iconic building which houses the Smithsonian Visitors Centre.

The Castle, the Smithsonian Visitors Center

We had to make a choice regarding which museums we would visit on our short stay so we chose the Air and Space Museum and the American History Museum.  While Air and Space are not top of my list of interests, it would hard not to be impressed by the oustanding array of spacecraft  and aircraft chronicling the history of flight and space travel.  Seeing such huge machines suspended from the lofty heights of the ceiling felt quite surreal, and reading the text accompanying each display certainly makes you aware of the amazing accomplishments achieved by the men and woman who pioneered flight and space travel. You also can’t fail to recognise the incredible feats of engineering that have allowed them to do so because they are right there in front of you (or above you) – the Lunar Module, The Spirit of 1903, the Hubble Telescope and so much more.

Gemini Iv

Full scale mock-up of the Hubble telescope

Apollo-Soyuz test project

Lunar rock which we were able to touch

Lunar module LM-2 – it never flew in space but configured as LM-5, Apollo 11’s lunar module Eagle

Beech model 17 Staggerwing

Northrop Gamma 2B Polar Star made in 1935

Amelia Earhart’s plane – a Lockheed 5B Vega

The 1903 Wright Flyer

Wonderful suspended display

The American History Museum is fascinating, particularly if you only have a smattering of knowledge of American history like me (although I have certainly learned a lot more on this trip!) Aspects of American history and society though the ages are on display with iconic and evocative artifacts – like the shoes worn by Judy Garland when she played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Currently there is display of Superheroes too and Inauguration dresses of The First Ladies.

The National Museum of American History

Superman suit in the Super Heroes display

Dorothy’s red slippers, worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz

Michelle Obama’s Inauguration dress

Jackie Kennedy’s Inauguration Dress, designed by Oleg Cassini

Melanie Trump’s Inauguration dress

Hillary Clinton’s first Inauguration dress – it is very beautiful

While we only viewed the interior of two musems we saw many as we walked or passed by in the trolley (a very handy service which enables you to get easily from place to place). I very much admired the architecture of the American Indian Museum. Both the interior and exterior surroundings harmonise with Native American beliefs and this would have been my choice to visit had we had more time.

The National Museum of the American Indian

An installation in the grounds of the National Museum of the American Indian

We took in the International Spy Museum on our last day in Washington DC. It is not part of the Smithsonian complex so there a cost to enter but is well worthwhile, as we discovered. After the FBI Museum closed post 9/11 this one now takes is place. It is informative, interactive and rather fun (but don’t go on a day when it is full of schoolkids!)

Secret code ….

Secret writing inks

A courier shoe

James Bond’s silver Aston Martin …

Antique weapons of torture

Kim Philby’s hat

Monuments, memorials and institutions ~ Washington D.C. style…

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Walking around Washington D.C. is akin to being immersed in a visual and tangible American history lesson, aided in part by the sheer numbers of major monuments and memorials and indeed institutional buildings, which are nothing short of spectacular. Initially it is the sheer size of these iconic memorials and buildings that impacts – the Lincoln Memorial for instance, is amazing – Lincoln is seated in a huge chair on a giant plinth, looking out across the reflecting pond, and to right the Gettysburg address is etched into the marble walls – powerful imagery to be sure.

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An imposing Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial

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The Gettysburg Address…

For a more confronting experience, the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials are hard to rival. Both are situated near the Lincoln Memorial and are evocative and moving. The stainless steel statues of soldiers in the Korean Memorial seem to be moving through the undergrowth … they commemorate losses not only of Americans in the Korean War, but also those of its allies, including New Zealand.

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The Korean Memorial

The Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial seems even more powerful in what it evokes – it is a wall which increases to a height of 12 feet at its highest point, and is inscribed with the names of over 58,000 men and women who lost their lives serving their country during the period from 1959 to 1975.

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The Vietnam Veterans’ Wall

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a rather pretty monument in a very picturesque location beside the Tidal Basin. In the spring it must make for very beautiful photos when the cherry blossoms (gifted to the city by Japan) are in bloom. Standing proudly within is the very fine figure of Thomas Jefferson, the third President is the United States, and the primary author of The Declaration of Independence.

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The Thomas Jefferson Memorial

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The fine figure of Thomas Jefferson

One of the most memorable buildings we visited was The Capitol ( the Legislative building) – with its prominent dome, high ceilings, beautifully polished floors and its sheer size, it cannot fail to impress.

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The Capitol Dome

It is the Library of Congress however, that will hold special memories for me – the stunning Jefferson Library in particular. The first and oldest of the four Library of Congress buildings, its architecture put me in mind of the Mezquita in Córdoba – it is quite simply breathtaking!

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The roof in The LOC Jefferson Building

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Fabulous arches in the Jefferson Building

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The Main Reading Room – sadly, we had to view it from behind a screen …

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This beautiful piece is on the wall above the landing of a stairwell in the Jefferson Building

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A librarian soaking up the wintry sun on the steps of the LOC Jefferson Building

Probably the memorial that affected me the most is that of President Kennedy’s burial site at Arlington Cemetery – indeed the Cemetery itself provoked strong emotions within me. Standing at Kennedy’s grave and seeing the eternal flame is something I have longed to do and will never forget …

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Standing in quiet contemplation at the gravesite of President Kennedy

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The Eternal Flame and the plaque marking Jackie Kennedy’s grave

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It is impossible not to be moved by the lines of white crosses in Arlington – over 420,000 are buried there.

I would wax lyrical about Washington D.C. and what it has to offer and what I have posted here are a few thoughts on the wonderful monuments and memorials we have seen –  a few more follow in the photographs below…
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The Washington Monument follows you whoever you go in Washington ….

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The Supreme Court is massive and imposing

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The National Archives of America are well worth a visit – we saw the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights

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Memorials do not need to be huge to be effective

George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon – sits in a stunning spot overlooking the Potomac

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Mount Vernon -the home of George Washington sits in a spectacular position overlooking the Potomac

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The Washington National Cathedral

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The interior of the Gothic Style Cathedral

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The Space Window in the Cathedral contains Lunar rock

And then of course, there are the Smithsonians …

Of Presidents and things…

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Washington offers American history buffs the most wonderful opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Presidents, to see where they lived, where they played and where they died.

We have seen the bed in which Abraham Lincoln died, and the deathbed of George Washington. We have seen the burial place of George Washington and those of President Kennedy and his brothers Bobby and Ted. We have seen the theatre box where Abraham Lincoln was seated when he was shot by John Wilkes Booth, the home of George Washington at Mount Vernon and the White House where Donald Trump currently presides. We watched three helicopters flying in formation towards the White House on their to pick up said President and so much more …

The box at Ford’sTheatre where Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth

The bedroom in the Peterson Boarding House opposite Ford’s Theatre. The bed is a replica.

The Peterson House ( the pink one)

Visitors near The White House

The George Washington Mansion at Mount Vernon

The White House

The spot in the Capitol where the body of George H. W. Bush lay in state during the time we were in New York

The burial site of JFK and the eternal flame. I was moved to tears…

Paying my respects

Edward Kennedy’s burial site

Washington National Cathedral where the service for George H. W. Bush was held

Americans memorialise their leaders, heroes, iconic events and places incredibly well, often with huge monuments, and we have been spoiled for choice here!

One of the best ways to see these huge monuments here in Washington is to take a night tour (Monuments by Moonlight is excellent), though it is a good idea to see them in daylight first I think. Some of the majestic monuments are here below – the night tour photos will follow….

The National Christmas Tree
Washington Monument – it dominates the skyline from so many angles

The Capitol Building

The Jefferson Memorial

Arlington Cemetery in Virginia

The Korean Memorial

The Reflecting Pool from the Lincoln Memorial

The impressive Supreme Court Building

George Washington lies here

Acknowledging the enslaved people buried at Mount Vernon

Washington D.C. – love it already …

 

We travelled to Washington D.C. on an Amtrak train – a comfortable three and a half hour ride, arriving here mid afternoon on chilly overcast day.  While we waited for our room at the J.W. Marriott to be ready,  we took the opportunity to aquaint ourselves with the area around the hotel.

The stunning Willard is just a little way along from the Marriott – an elegant French-inspired building – in fact my first impression of the city was that it felt very much like Paris. We later discovered that basic design was the work of Pierre Charles L’Enfant, a French- American engineer.

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The roof line of the Willard Intercontinental

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The Willard

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The impressive staircase

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Looking down Pennsylvania Avenue to The Trump Hotel – with the tower

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This place is so pretty

As we wandered back to the hotel we discovered that the oldest theatre in the country, The National Theatre,  is beside our hotel and Beautiful The Carole King Musical is playing there.

583294B5-A0F9-4EC9-92EE-5743F6DA401D We decided to chance getting tickets and tickets were available that very evening,  but the sales assistant also told us that there is lottery every night at 6 p.m. which you can enter, and if your name is drawn, the ticket cost is only $US25  – and what you know?  Yes!  we got the cheap tickets, but the seats were amazing , front and centre, 6 rows back.

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And the Musical itself? Absolutely outstanding – it made our day and I could feel that this city was going to be a winner for me.

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Walking in New York – and our visit comes to an end …

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Because it was so cold in New York, we accepted that there were some things it would be impractical to attempt – no walking the Brooklyn Bridge in the evening for us – that will have to wait for another time, a summer visit perhaps. No visit to the Dumbo area either as it as freezing due to the wind chill factor.

However, the  deluxe three day bus ticket proved useful getting us to places we wanted to see except in one instance. After our cruise out to see the Statue of Liberty  we got on the Big Bus again intending to connect with the Harlem tour,  but according to our tour guide, ‘The Tree’ was causing the horrendous traffic snarl-up we experienced, which meant we missed our connection.

Fortunately the route we were on came to an end near Central Park, so we took our planned walk and found Strawberry Fields, the part of the Park where John Lennon is remembered and where his ashes were scattered.

Walking was the actually the  best plan for reaching many of the places we wanted to see – seeking out certain shops for family presents for instance, and walking to the fabulous York Public Library.

Another brilliant walk is the High Line and although it was late in the day and very cold, it was a real highlight for all of us. The old railway line has been refurbished and converted into a fabulous walk, taking in architecture, both old and new, with street art and art installations along the way.  A not to be missed attraction and a great way for us to end our busy five day stay as I hope you can see from the photos below ….

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The entry we took to begin the walk
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Dressed to combat the chilly day
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The original railway lines are still visible in some places
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Beautiful brick
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Mother Teresa and Gandhi mural seen from the High Line
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Old and new in the skyline
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The Empire State is visible
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Red berries
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A water tower
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A holly bush
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Love this building
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A colourful mural
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David Bowie I presume
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Breathtaking
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Apartments!
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An interesting wall …
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Another wow,
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One Hudson Yards – a residential Development with some amazing architecture
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Sadly, my last walk in New York on the way to breakfast before taking the train to Washington D.C.

– Next post – Washington D.C.

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December in New York – those Christmas lights!

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For me part of the reason to travel to New York in the American winter was to see the famed Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center. It seems to be affectionately called ‘The Tree’ – it has an interesting history as you can see here.

Having seen the beautiful lights on television and in movies and magazines over many years, it was time for us to see them for ourselves – so here I share them with you – from Times Square, The Rockefeller Centre, the facade of Saks 5th Avenue, Macy’s and anywhere else they happened to take my fancy – enjoy …

In Macy’s flagship store window

Giant red ornaments on Sixth Avenue

Skaters under the tree in the Rockefeller Center

My favourite part of the Christmas decorations at the Rockefeller Center

Looking up to Saks Fifth Avenue

In the window of Dolce and Gabbana

Salvatore Ferragamo’s signature bow

Macy’s pretty pale tree decorations

Santa’s for sale in Macy’s

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Polar bears in Macy’s

Macy’s roof in the Christmas shop

Red trees and reindeer

We saw many trees like this, swathed in lights

The Rockefeller Christmas Tree

Saks 5th Ave light show on the facade – spectacular

Saks again -the colours were amazing

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The Tree at night

Wreath on the facade of Grand Central Station

The Christmas Tree in the New York Public Library – magic

Near the Dakota Building – where John Lennon was shot

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Toy soldier at the Rockefeller Centre

 

Lady Liberty and other icons

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Our first glimpse of the iconic Statue came as we alighted from the bus at Battery Park. It was fine and chilly and squirrels were scampering in the carpet of dried leaves covering the park surrounds. The trees here have really intrigued and delighted me – mostly they are completely bare, with charcoal-coloured trunks which stand out as you frame your  photos, or they are clothed in faded autumn leaves.

Now, back to Liberty – as we approached the water, there was the famous green statue in the distance her arm extended, standing proud and strong at the entrance to the harbour.

Not long before we left I read a wonderful book called Her Right Foot by David Eggers which was gifted to my grandson, by Theadora Brack, and we had enjoyed learning together about the Statue’s provenance and significance. Seeing it so tantalisingly close made me even more impatient to get out on the water to view her up close.

That opportunity came the following day as we took the Liberty cruise purchased as part of our deluxe Big Bus Ticket. The day dawned clear and sunny but it was extremely cold …

The boat trip provided a wonderful opportunity to take photos of the Manhattan skyline.

As we drew away from the cityscape, we passed Ellis Island and then Liberty loomed large. I was very surprised at her colour – the green is so bright! She is imposing yet inspiring and I imagine, for those early immigrants, she must have been comforting, and symbolic of a life filled with new possibilities…

Even though we messed up our initial intention to ascend Liberty, I realised I had no need to do that. Seeing her standing aloft in the harbour was enough for me and the memory will remain strong.

I have the same feeling about the Empire State Building. We contemplated going up to the Observatory, but we had to prioritise, and frankly I hate heights, so I am happy to have seen it from many different angles as we travelled around Manhattan.

There are many more iconic buildings that dominate the skyline and it feels good to have seen them – the Chrysler Building, The Flat Iron Building (caught a glimpse in the distance), 56 Leonard Street (the Jenga building),  elegant brownstone townhouses with beautiful handrails, stunning churches and synagogues  – in truth there are far too many to mention. The Manhattan skyline is mesmerising, and I have developed a fascination for the Canadian cedar water towers that sit atop buildings of 6 stories or more – some favourite snaps follow: 

New York – sensory overload…

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We left New York for Washington D.C. today but there is a lot to share with you. We have crammed in as much as we could because we ended up being here for one day less than originally planned – today was meant to be our visit to Liberty Island but collectively we realised we had booked our tour for the day we were leaving…

However, one of the things we got right was to buy the 2 day Big Bus Deluxe ticket which allowed us to see more of the city than we could have done otherwise. Personally, I wanted to see as much outdoors as the weather allowed and we have walked thousands of steps a day, beginning on our first day.

We felt the need to lighten the mood (despite the drizzle) after our 9/11 visit, so we made out way to Times Square and the Rockefeller Center. Times Square is a crazy place – a kaleidoscope of constantly changing, brightly coloured billboards put you in danger of sensory overload though it is very easy to stand and gaze at them, and they are even more engaging at night.

On our return, we dined in a local gastropub called the Houndstooth- after much walking and sightseeing on a chilly day, comfort food was required and we enjoyed a very nice meal there… setting us up perfectly to meet Liberty the following day – report to follow.

PS – It is 11.30pm as I write this and the CNN offices in New York  have been evacuated due to a bomb threat.

The National September 11 Memorial Museum…

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It is informative, mesmerising, sensitive, yet confronting and chilling. If you lived through that terrible day, watching the hideous events unfold, either in America or elsewhere in the world, then visiting this incredible space cannot fail to affect you. For those who were not yet born, or too young to remember, it must be an utterly incredible and moving learning experience.

All four of us lingered at each display, remembering the scenes we saw unfolding on our television screens before our disbelieving eyes. The Museum is situated below ground (eerie for me in itself) and contains evocative artefacts from September 11… including the Survivor staircase, 2 tridents from the Twin Towers, mangled fire engines, articles of clothing used or left behind by survivors, chilling audio recordings, – and the list goes on.

The best way to portray the Museum is through just a few of our photos. I took very few however, as the solemnity and reverential air made it seem inappropriate to me. The ones I did take do little justice to the enormity of the Museum and the piece of history it portrays…

The slurry wall shoring up the Hudson River remained intact

The survivor staircase which withstood the collapse of the Twin Towers

A very mangled Ladder 3

The message I left on the interactive screen – no words can ever be enough

The enormous tridents from below