I was fairly skittish on the first few days of our time in New York City. Perhaps a little longer than that if I’m honest.
I couldn’t help feeling so vulnerable.
In a world dominated by stories of terrorist attacks I knew at any given moment I could be struck down by a truck or a pipe bomb in a subway station.
That’s not even to mention some enraged disconnected soul armed with an AK 47 hell bent on destruction.
I kept the girls close to my side.
The fear began to subside a little each day because nothing happened. I remained safe and happy having a wonderful time.
The longer I stayed and nothing happened, the more I realized we really do live in a relatively safe world and the evil we hear so much about doesn’t have a lot of power.
If they did, these attacks would happen more often because it’s so easy for it to happen.
While I’m not delusional enough to think these acts of terror won’t continue to happen, I have hope that the rest of us, the ones with goodness in our hearts, can rise up with a love bigger than their hate and silence them.
Our visit to the One World Trade Center in New York was poignant and gave me hope that we can rise up with a bigger love and purpose.
The One World Trade Center is at the site where the tragedies of September 11, 2001 happened and over 2,700 people lost their lives.
It includes One World Observatory (or Freedom Tower), The Oculus, and the 911 Memorial and Museum which is extraordinary in its design, symbolism, and remembrance.
We began our experience at the World Trade Center walking through The Oculus to the One World Observatory.
The “Oculus” serves as the centerpiece of the World Trade Center Transportation. It is a train station connecting different subway lines and the PATH train to Jersey.
It’s also a plaza and shopping mall.
The Oculus in its crisp clean, unique design spoke of promise and lightness.
There was an easy pace rolling through here. It was quiet and reflective. I loved the inside of the design more than the outside, which is meant to resemble a dove.
There is great coffee at Épicerie Boulud, but drink it before you go to One World as you can’t get through security with it!
The One World Observatory
The One World Observatory, or Freedom Tower, gave the most exquisite 360 views of Manhattan and surrounding New York boroughs.
I won’t spoil the surprise for you, but be prepared for it when you first enter the viewing floor and are shown are short movie.
It’s pretty epic.
I enjoyed walking around to see the grandeur of New York from above, but I couldn’t stop my mind from drifting to what happened 16 years ago and how we were near the spot at almost the same height.
It could just as easily been us on that day as it was back then.
Savannah turned from the window and the Hudson River view she was gazing upon and said,
“Imagine if this building fell Mum. I’d be so scared.”
My throat caught and the tears pricked. If only she knew.
It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, the terror still seems so fresh.
There is a guide who gives a short talk on the observation deck about Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge, the building of One World Observatory, and how this area has recovered, and is booming, since September 11.
It was worth listening to.
911 Memorial Museum
After the One World Observatory, we quietly walked around the north and south memorial pools of the 911 Memorial.
The 9/11 Memorial consists of two enormous reflecting pools set in the footprints of the twin towers.
Each pool is about an acre in size and 30-foot waterfalls cascade down all sides. Hundreds of swamp white oak trees line the surrounding plaza.
It’s a very spiritual and reflective place made sacred through tragic loss.
The Memorial is there to remember those lost, recognize the endurance of those who survived, the courage of those who risked their lives to save others, and the compassion of all who supported us in our darkest hours.
I loved standing by the Survivor Tree, sharing its story with the girls and talking about how it represented resilience and hope.
We saw it during the bareness of winter, but isn’t she so pretty in full bloom?
May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance and intolerance. – 911 Memorial and Museum Mission
The 911 Museum
The following day we visited the 911 Museum.
The Museum displays more than 900 personal and monumental objects while its collection includes more than 60,000 items that present intimate stories of loss, compassion, reckoning and recovery linked to the events of 9/11 and the aftermath.
We were concerned about taking the girls, and after a bit of research and talking to some people, we decided we’d take them in and use it as an opportunity to talk to them about what happened and what we can do with it moving forward.
I was worried about the fear it might give them about the world we live in.
While we can’t shield them from these things, we can help them understand the importance of our role in overcoming evil and fear and not letting it stop us from living.
I was able to share with the girls how safe the events of 911 made the world.
We spoke about airport security, and how, even though we complain about the time and thoroughness of it, airport security is strict so this can never happen again, and it hasn’t in 16 years.
In the 911 Museum there is a separate historical section with warnings of the disturbing and unsettling images within.
They don’t recommend it to children under 10. Craig and I tag teamed with Savannah so she did not go in.
The displays outside this section are more about the building, with a beautiful tribute area to remember the people who were lost.
Savannah is a highly sensitive child, so even though she couldn’t understand much of what she saw in that area, she felt it and wanted to be held and cuddled by me.
We gave Kalyra the choice to enter the historical section. I explained that it would be disturbing and she could leave at any time. She wanted to come in.
There was another segregated section in there with warnings about the disturbing images of people jumping from the building. I would not let her in to see that.
Tissues are thoughtfully placed throughout the museum.
Although we weren’t in New York when 911 happened, like most people around the world, we were glued to the news about it and deeply disturbed.
Most of the images and stories I had seen and heard before, but the 911 museum brought up all the disbelief, anger and sadness again.
When I heard a lady’s voice recalling events of the young 19 year old firefighter who was running into one of the areas of the building and she warned him it was no use, he replied,
“I have to ma’am it’s my job,”
I broke down into tears.
The strength, courage and honor of the first responders is unimaginable, as for anyone in those buildings at the time.
The strength, courage and resilience of New York is unimaginable.
How they picked themselves up from that to create and be something better is admirable.
While the tears fell and I, along with everyone else in the museum and memorial grounds, felt so emotional as we remembered, I found something else there too … HOPE.
I chose to let the tears fall and cleanse the sadness, but to focus on hope instead.
It’s so easy to look at the evil that was committed and believe that’s all the world has got. But, what I saw was the resilience and power behind good.
As I walked past displays showing parts of the North and South tower, including the Last Column memorial, I thought how we will always have things to represent the building that once stood.
But what about the people who were lost? We have their pictures and stories but it didn’t feel enough. What do we have to remember them by and always honor them?
And the answer that enveloped me was,
We have their spirit. While their physical form has gone, their spirit lives on. It’s that spirit that helped create something so wonderful from something so tragic.
So we don’t need to fear what happens to our physical bodies because our spirit will always be contributing to the greater good.
It’s up to us who are still in physical form to remember those who have gone by using their spirit to be kind, loving, to be better humans, and join together to create something great.
I have faith that we can rise up and do it.
As Kalyra tried to understand the madness, I spoke to her about why people commit such acts of terror.
It all comes down to intense hate and fear.
They thought they were doing the right thing, but they didn’t see it was evil as hate had overtaken their intentions.
It’s up to us to help stop the spread of hate.
We start by doing our best to remove it from our lives and spread love, peace and joy instead.
It’s the only thing we can really do. Spend our days creating righter than hating.
That’s why I love New York. There is just something about it that is so hard to define, and most people simply say there is no place like it.
It’s a melting pot of stories of those who have triumphed over all adversities, constantly reaching for greatness and defying all limits of possibilities.
I get it.
I get the spirit of this city and how it keeps on believing and being great.
I didn’t know until the next day on our circle line cruise around Manhattan about the symbolism behind the design of the One World Observatory.
It was created as a modern replica of the Statue of Liberty.
To demonstrate that strength, and freedom will always be what rises up from the Manhattan soil, no matter what.
That gave me hope. I felt that my spirit was safe.
I stopped looking over my shoulder and fretting walking along the sidewalk and just got lost in the New York Christmas wonder.
None of us can ever know when something, terror related or not, can happen to us.
One morning you sit down at your office desk to attend to the day’s task and a plane comes flying through your window and the building topples.
How can anyone of us ever know that?
How can we ever let the fear of it stop us living and embracing every moment as the gift that it is?
The image I can never shake from my head is of those who jumped from their windows to escape the fiery furnace. Imagine the courage it took to make that decision?
In the museum it mentioned how one woman bravely stood and held down her skirt before she leaped, keeping her dignity in tact.
Whenever I’m faced with a challenge or a fear, I’m going to hold her image steadfast in my mind.
Stand tall with dignity and grace, take a deep breath, and act courageously.
The choice I fear will never be as difficult as they one she was forced to make.
May you find the courage amongst fear and madness too.
Facts and Tips
Located on eight of the 16 acres of the World Trade Center site, the 911 Memorial and Museum remember and honor the 2,983 people who were killed in the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993.
One World Observatory:
- Cost – $36 adults, $30 kids (6-12)
- Hours – 9:00 am until 9:00pm (last ticket sold at 8:15pm) Open seven days a week
- Cost: $36 adults, $30 kids (6-12)
- Hours – Sun – Thu, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., last entry at 6 p.m. Fri and Sat, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m., last entry at 7 p.m.
911 Tribute Museum:
We did not go to the Tribute Museum as we felt very drained and we thought it would be too much for the girls. I really want to visit on a future trip.
The Tribute Museum was set up by The September 11th Families’ Association, which was created by the widows and families of the Fire Department of New York and profits go back to help those directly affected by 911.
The 9/11 Tribute Museum historical exhibitions share the first person perspective of people who experienced 9/11 including guided tours of the memorial by those who experienced the events first hand.
- Cost: $15 adults, $5 kids (8-12)
- Open: Mon-Sat: 10am-6pm Sun: 10am-5pm
Tips for Visiting the 911 Museum
- Get there at opening. These are the most popular attractions in New York at the moment so ticket lines get very long.
- Book tickets to the 911 Museum online ONLY if you can print off tickets. Otherwise, you still have to line up in the ticket line to collect them. And you’ll pay an extra $2 per person for it. Huge mistake by me!
- If you can get your ticket printed before hand, you can do the Museum straight after One World as you won’t have the long ticket line to deal with. Otherwise you might want to spread them across two days. Do One World first thing one day and then the museum first thing the other day.
- Be aware, that you will feel quite emotional after visiting so plan some time to relax afterwards. I had a slight meltdown after coming out from the historical section and sitting with Savannah. She told me her pierced ears had closed up because she lost her earrings and didn’t have any replacement. I was so busy in New York I forgot to get her new ones. So I burst into tears at what a horrible mother I was, hugging her and apologizing. After I calmed down I realized what was coming out was the pain of what I just experienced. So be prepared it could happen at anytime and just let it out.
Where to stay in NYC:
From budget to luxury, there are literally thousands of accommodation options in NYC, United States.
We recommend checking out the listings on booking.com for your New York accommodation. We find they have the widest range of properties. You get free cancellation on most rooms, and a best price guarantee. Plus, they have verified reviews from guests who have actually stayed at the property!
We are partners with Booking.com, which means we’ll receive a small commission should you choose to book through the links on our site. We book our own accommodation through them, which is why we recommend them to you as our preferred accommodation provider.
INNSIDE New York Nomad
This is the hotel we prefer to stay at when we visit New York. This hotel is perfect for business travelers and young millennials.
But, wait., it’s even great for families, if you get the interconnecting family suite. You’ll be surprised at how roomy it is for New York. You can read our full review here or book your stay through Booking.com here.
The Ritz-Carlton New York Central Park
This Manhattan hotel in Midtown overlooks Central Park and is within walking distance of Fifth Avenue and Rockefeller Center. It features an on-site restaurant, bar and classic rooms with a flat-screen TV. The Ritz is for those looking for a high, end luxury NYC accommodation experience. Book your stay and read reviews here.
Homewood Suites Midtown Manhattan Times Square South
This Midtown Manhattan hotel offers complimentary hot and cold breakfast buffet daily. The suites have fully equipped kitchenettes which makes it attractive for those wanting to save money on eating out. It’s right near Times Square and Madison Square Garden.
Tour options in New York City
There are a wide variety of options for tours in New York City depending on what your interests, budget and time. Here are a few we recommend through our partner, Get Your Guide
- For the foodies: Greenwich Village food tour and brewery tour of Brooklyn
- For the history buffs: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island guided tour
- Best for views: Top of the Rock Observation Deck – Flexible Date ticket
- Unique and Fun Tour: The Nighttime Ride
- Adventure and epic bucket list tour: New York City Deluxe helicopter tour or the Manhattan skyline cruise aboard a luxury yacht
If you’re looking to go beyond the boundaries of New York, these longer tours may be of interest
Sightseeing Pass for New York City
New York is a destination filled with many bucket list experiences. A Sightseeing Pass is our number one tip for saving money on attractions in New York City. You can read our full review here and our comparison to the New York Pass.
You can choose between The Sightseeing Pass or Sightseeing Flex Pass;
- The Sightseeing pass is when you can choose 1, 2, 3, 5 or 7 days of Unlimited Sightseeing.
- The Sightseeing FLEX pass is when you Visit 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 10 Attractions – Choose from 90 Options. It’s valid for 7 days.
The Sightseeing pass will give you access to the One World Observatory and the 911 Tribute museum. The New York Pass grants you access to the 911 Museum and Tribute Museum, but not One World Observatory.
Further reading and resources for your trip to New York City
- City Guide – Things to do in NYC
- 10 places to eat in NYC for iconic food
- 14 coffee shops the locals love
- Romantic things to do in NYC
- 3 day itinerary for the best NYC attractions
Are you visiting any of these popular destinations? Click to read our guides and highlights.