As the huge Continental jet lumbered and roared its way down the runway and slowly lifted itself into the night sky, I gazed out as New York City gradually crystallised into a million glittering lights below me. I watched rivers of cars floating along ribbons of highway and patches of inky nothingness which marked bodies of water. As the beauty of the scene below melted into my consciousness I thought about the last time I had flown out of New York. I was 18 years old and like today I was returning to a country deep in recession and unsure of where my future lay.

Back then in 1981, I had spent a few days in New York visiting the sights which included a trip to the top of the World Trade Centre. I retold my children this experience last week as we stood gazing into the hole that is now known as Ground Zero. My girls are too young to remember that awful day on the 11th of September 2001, but for most of us it is a day burned into our memories forever. The fact that I, like many, watched live as the horror unfolded, connects us strongly to what happened that day.

After visiting the site last week, we went on to the WTC Tribute Centre. This is a centre which focuses on the human stories of 9/11. It doesn’t dwell on the horror of the day. I saw no video of the actual moments when the aircrafts hit the centre, no footage of the people who jumped to their death that day, no attempt to explore who committed this awful crime. No, this centre tells us about the community that was WTC – the people who worked there, who ate there, and who shopped there. And by focusing on these stories, this very human face of 9/11, it is incredibly moving. We were all deeply affected by the experience. The last element of the centre offers visitors a chance to record a message or a reaction to what you have seen. I was fascinated that my two girls, unprompted, both sat down quietly and wrote a message on the special message cards. Their words were private and they posted them into the box without showing them to me or Paul.

I had been unsure as to whether to include Ground Zero on our holiday itinerary – its horror is still fresh in my mind and I didn’t want them to be scared by it. But the WTC Tribute Centre’s approach and its focus on sharing ‘person to person stories’ meant it was a poignant and emotional experience not only for the children but for Paul and I too. I salute the families of 9/11 who have created a very special and fitting tribute to the 2,752 people who lost their lives in that place that day. We left feeling humbled but also uplifted by the connection with those so deeply affected by the events of September 11th 2001.

New York is a wonderful city and a unique one. We often hear of the special energy the city has. Paul, being a photographer, kept commenting on the light in the city. Perhaps it is because the sun’s beams are bounced around the millions of windows contrasting with the deep shadows thrown by the skyscrapers but the light in New York definitely seemed to dance and sparkle all around us. Having spent five days in the energy of this huge, noisy, bustling city I hope that we have returned with just a bit of the special light Paul talked about. Along with the heart to heart connection learned in the WTC Tribute Centre, perhaps we can learn to shine that light forth and shine our way into our futures.

Published by


Writing and Talking.... on the radio, on the telly and in the papers.

11 thoughts on “NEW YORK CITY LIGHT”

  1. A great post, Barbara. I'm heading over in June and can't wait.

    I started college the day after 9/11. It was so strange – thousands of new students on what was supposed to be one of the most important days of our lives, and none of us cared.

    I went to New York three months later, and the spirit and resilience of the city won me over. I've loved it ever since.

  2. A wonderful post, Barbara. I had friends in the WTC that day and one who was supposed to be on the first plane but changed his plans last minute.

    New York is a special city for me as I spent lots of time there with my favourite cousin who lived there his whole life. I felt I got to see it through his eyes, those of a celebrated playwright. It's a special place and Paul is right, there is a wonderful light there.

    Your writing is beautiful, it brought me right back and, to be honest, brought a tear to my eye.

  3. Great post Barbara, I loved your description of taking offm and the light in the city, both sounded magical. I would love to visit. Thanks for letting me tag along. 😉

  4. Thank you for this, Barbara. I have never visited the WTC site, have even moved meetings to avoid it in the years since 2001. I've always thought I wouldn't have the fortitude to visit the site of so much death…but your piece has made me re-think this. Maybe it's time.

  5. A very warm and heartfelt post Barbara. You deal with this tragedy matter with a soft caring and sensitive voice.

    Your description of the light in the city is perfect. Hope a great time was had by all.

  6. That is such a wonderful tribute to what happened on that awful day. The horror of September 11 will always be with us. Let us hope it will never happen again.

  7. I liked the story related to 1981,because it was the year I born, also it's perfect to remind a lot of things about NY city because it was the city which saw me grow up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s