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TOURISTS AND MEMORIALS

Cindy Maddera

There were two places on Michael's list of things he wanted to see in New York that made me pull a face when he said he wanted to see them. One was Times Square. I will admit that I like my fair share of super touristy things, particularly the kitschy stuff, but Times Square is the worst. It's loud and crowded and there are too many TV screens with bright lights flashing advertisements. I believe that actual New Yorkers avoid this area like the plague. We shuffled through on our last evening in the City and Michael now agrees with me. You have to at least experience it once. Every time I think about Times Square, I remember the time that Taluara and I had to walk through to get to a ticket office. A woman stopped Talaura and said "Excuse me, but can you tell me how to get to Times Square?" Talaura replied with "look around, you're here." Then the woman said "No, no...the place where they drop the ball at New Year's" Talaura made a face and then pointed all around "Here. You are in that spot." and then we muscled our way on through the crowd, sighing with relief on the other side.

The second thing on Michael's list was to visit the 9/11 Memorial. Though I have heard that it is a beautiful memorial, it was just something I didn't care to visit. Still, I put on a brave face and went with Michael. That day started out really well. We had a breakfast of lox and bagels at the Chelsea Market. We took a cab from there down the World Trade Tower and stood across the street for bit so I could take pictures. There was a man with a thick German accent waiting with us at the cross walk on that side of the street. He asked me what camera I was using because he was going to let me use his wide angle lens. Unfortunately we did not have compatible cameras, but I was floored that he was just going to offer up the use of thousand dollar lens to a complete stranger. We finally crossed the street and headed over to the memorial.

We stepped up to edge of the memorial and immediately iron bands wrapped around my chest and started to squeeze. I turned on my heel and managed to gasp out "I can't" as I stepped away from the edge of the memorial, leaving Michael standing there slightly at a loss. He asked "are we leaving?" I replied "No. You look and see what you need to see here. I'll just stand over here because I cannot look down into that." By this point, tears were streaming down my face even though I was trying to keep a lightness to my voice and not make a scene. Michael walked over and put his arms around me and we stood like this for a few minutes while I composed myself. I noticed a couple standing with their backs to the memorial, smiles on their faces with their selfie stick raised high. It all made me slightly nauseous and Michael said "let's move on." So we left the main memorial and headed towards a building that looked like it was made of whale bones called The Wings of Hope. Once we were inside, we quickly realized we were in a mall and this left a bad taste in both of our mouths because we thought we were walking into a memorial of some kind. We quickly moved on to look at the Brooklyn Bridge.

The other night I dreamed that J was still alive. He'd been lost in Iraq all this time and when they found him, he was sick. Sand had coated his lungs and he couldn't breath. I was trying to make it to the hospital to talk to him before the doctors intubated him. I woke up with a start, my heart pounding in my chest, my checks damp. I was disoriented and even thought for a second that it was possible J was still alive somewhere in Iraq. Except it's not possible. I remembered my brief glance down into the 9/11 Memorial and how in that very brief glance all I could see was ash and bodies and how this one horrific event changed the molecular structure of the whole country. The impact would have seismic waves that would last and will last for years.

Like a never ending tsunami.