They Rise Again

DSCF7389It has been 14 years since 9/11. I got a chance to visit the National September 11 Memorial just recently. I was amazed at the sight of the One World Trade Center.The building looked formidable yet elegant.

One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center

The two reflecting pools in the footprints of the fallen buildings were pretty emotional. The name of each of the victims/heroes was inscribed on the panels of the pools. I did not know any of the victims/heroes, but I took some time reading some of the names.

Reflecting pool

Reflecting pool

Names of victims/heroes inscribed on the panel of one of the reflecting pools.

Names of victims/heroes inscribed on the panel of one of the reflecting pools.

While doing that, I felt a deep sense of sorrow and empathy for the victims and what happened. Perhaps we do not always have to have a personal connection to a dark site to have an emotional experience. The CNN News tonight talked about the 9/11 anniversary

Visitor Rules of Conduct. Can we have such thing at the entrance of Timpohon Gate, at least?

Visitor Rules of Conduct. Can we have such thing at the entrance of Timpohon Gate, at least?

and the lessons that could be learned. The site was a massive chaos in the aftermath of the attacks. Now it is back on its feet. Clean, beautiful and strong. The biggest lesson I learned from the whole 9/11 thing is we all stumble every now and then. But just like the 9/11 site, we can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again.

The Story behind Skyscrapers

Willis Tower, previously known as the Sears Tower, at 1,450 feet. It has 110 floors. It was the world's tallest building until 1996, when it was surpassed by the Petronas Twin Towers. Cool :)

Willis Tower, previously known as the Sears Tower, at 1,450 feet. It has 110 floors. It was the world’s tallest building until 1996, when it was surpassed by the Petronas Twin Towers. Cool 🙂

I am not a big fan of skyscrapers. For me, they are just tall structures. I do agree that a host of tall buildings have their own distinct architectural flavors and characters, though. Some of the world’s tallest buildings have cast their spell on my friend and me. Spellbound, we made our way to the Petronas Twin Towers (I am proud to call it my home country’s!), Taipei 101, Willis Tower and a little over a month ago, the Empire State Building. If there is one common trait that DSCF2922characterizes these buildings, I would say ‘an extremely long line to experience its main draw’ (just think about the not-seem-to-be-getting-any-shorter line to the Petronas Twin Towers’ skybridge).  Anyway, each building that I visited has left its lasting mark on my mental map. Take Willis Tower for example. It has this amazing thing called the Ledge. Fast facts about the Ledge: it refers to the glass boxes extending out 4.3 feet from the skyscraper’s skydeck on the 103rd floor. When you step out onto one of the boxes, you get breathtaking views of the city of Chicago in a way that is a great deal more fascinating than from the skydeck. And
DSCF2923because they are glass boxes, you can pretty much see what is going on way, way down below. I do not think I have a serious fear of height. But the Ledge kind of made my knees go soft, and my hands become cold. My friend’s height phobia was more intense than mine. He urged me to go ahead, which I did. I stepped out onto one of the boxes with my eyes fixated on the glass wall. I swore I would not look down

Fear? bring it on!

Fear? bring it on!

(because I knew that’s when my fear of height would kick me hard). I put my hands on the wall, as if that would stop my knees from shaking. I looked to my right and left, and saw that the other Ledge fellow visitors were having a lot of fun. Fear seemed to be non-existent in their vocabulary. They inspired me, though. Slowly, I turned my eyes to the world below me. Doing that made the

The views of Chicago from one of the glass boxes

The views of Chicago from one of the glass boxes

entire experience even more memorable. I pulled my friend’s hands so he could join me. Together, we defeated our fear of height and could even have a good laugh while still out on the Ledge. We made it!!! 😀 … Well, I do not think I am completely free from a height phobia now, but… whatever! Oh by the way, while waiting for our turn

Oh that's adorable :)

Oh that’s adorable 🙂

to experience the Ledge, a very sweet moment flashed before my eyes- a young man took the courage to ask his special lady to prom in one of the most adorable (though pretty scary) ways :-D. That is how I appreciate skyscrapers. I imagine they are like some ancient high-power beings that have witnessed many, many things that befall on mankind, conquered by mankind…the defeat of fears…the spark of romance…what is your story behind the skyscrapers, my friends?

The Empire State: the Return

DSCF7664I have heard that tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy will ensure a return trip to the city. Perhaps there are many places with that sort of legend….I visited New York City for the very first time almost 6 years ago. I still remember I was bursting with excitement about the trip. The city was huge with lots to see of course, and I had only a weekend to pack as much as I could in my itinerary. Time was my biggest enemy then. I was crazy about telling people ‘I have been to New York’ (I realize that attention-thirsting part of me has died as the years passed). I did not do my homework (i.e. researching about places, etc). I really hope to see the Statue of Liberty, the iconic landmark of the Big Apple. The last day was dedicated to seeing that green lady. I boarded a certain cruise, so looking forward to seeing the Statue up close.

The seven spikes of the crown: spread the values of democracy to the seven continents of the world.

The seven spikes of the crown: spread the values of democracy to the seven continents of the world.

What I did not know was that the cruise was only for the Ellis Island.The trip to the island took much of the day, so making a trip to see the Statue of Liberty would be impossible since the last cruise departed at 2pm (or 3pm). On the way to Ellis Island, we passed the green lady. Disappointed, of course. But I could only blame myself for not…anyway, I got an opportunity to visit the city about 3 weeks ago. This time I did my homework well (at least I thought I did). My expectation, this time, was to climb to the crown of the Statue of Liberty. Again, I planned to see the green lady on the last day, and again, I only had a weekend.

Side of the Statue of Liberty...one leg is ahead of the other, signifying moving forward.

Side of the Statue of Liberty…one leg is ahead of the other, signifying moving forward.

Back of the Statue of Liberty

Back of the Statue of Liberty

The night before, I took a close look at my cruise ticket. At the bottom of it, it said ‘Statue of Liberty – Grounds Only’. A bad feeling washed over me, and quickly I looked for more information. I was struck with a massive disappointment when I discovered (should have discovered way before) that a climb to the crown had to be made at least 3 months in advance, and it was all booked up till the middle of September…disappointed as I was, I still enjoyed my trip to the Liberty Island. From the grounds, I could admire the green lady in the full-length. She was huge!!! I also took a free guided tour provided by a National Park Service representative. I got to know the lady in depth. Fascinating! I admired her as a symbol of democracy and freedom. The crown, the book, the torch, the position of her legs are all indications of these highly-appreciated values…

Manhattan skyline from the Liberty Island. The day was burning hot. Ice cold lemonade was a real treat

Manhattan skyline from the Liberty Island. The day was burning hot. Ice cold lemonade was a real treat

It was a satisfying trip, despite my initial disappointment…but…maybe… there is…a third call… to return…my dear faithful partners in crime (mom, sisters and John)- PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE LAST LINE :-D.