Editorial September 2011
Sometimes when I think back on trips I’ve made, my memories of them are shaped by special anniversaries, some of them tragic. This is the 10th anniversary of 9/11, that horrific day when two planes intentionally crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
New York City has long been a favourite weekend destination for my sisters and me (aka ‘the girls’). We would arrive at La Guardia Airport early Friday morning and depart late Sunday afternoon, exhausted but satiated. We always took a ride on a hop-on-hop-off bus, attended a Broadway production, visited at least one museum, strolled through Central Park, ate cheesecake, and walked a zillion miles.
Our first visit after 9/11 broke that pattern. We got to stay at The Waldorf-Astoria, which would normally be way beyond our budget, but tourism was down significantly and great deals were being offered. A good part of our weekend was spent at the makeshift memorial at Ground Zero around a tiny 18th-century Episcopal church that became a relief centre during the clean up. St. Paul’s Chapel is known as ‘the little chapel that stood’ because it survived without even a window being broken, although it was just opposite the World Trade Center. The fence around the church became the site of makeshift memorials and we spent hours looking at all the items that people left and reading messages of loss and hope. It was powerful and very moving.
There are other significant anniversaries this year. Fifty years ago the Berlin Wall was built and 21 years ago they tore it down. Many of us who travelled in Europe in the 1970s remember taking the train through East Germany and going through Checkpoint Charlie to East Berlin. It certainly seemed to be other-world, with soldiers and dogs and barbed-wire fences on either side of the track. As the wall came down, the Soviet Union collapsed and that had significant impact on a country such as Cuba, which is a featured destination this month.
The Wagah border between India and Pakistan is often called the ‘Berlin Wall of Asia’ and the retreat ceremony that Gerrit Reinhardus tells us about has been going on there since 1959—the same year as the Cuban Revolution! So many linkages, so many memories.
© Riding the buses 2011