October 16, 2016
With much nervousness, we decided to take the family into New York City. We have never used any mass transit system before in any city, but knew that was the only way to tackle the beast. We knew it would not work to take a one ton, dually brute of a truck into the heart of downtown. But the desire of viewing so many iconic spots spurred us on to see them all.
As the Bible says in Proverbs 15:22, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” We found some local people who have ventured into NYC before. We know many of the ways to head in there would work. However, some were a little more budget conscious and headache free. This wisdom also changed how we viewed the Statue of Liberty. Originally, we were going to visit the Statue of Liberty and climb up to the top. After much discussion and research, we realized that would potentially take most of the day, if it wasn’t sold out by the time our turn came around. Sure, we could purchase tickets in advance, but we did not want to risk missing our time slot due to the commute. Instead, we contentedly viewed America’s symbol of freedom for free on a passing ferry.
Our day began at 4:30am. We knew we wanted to beat rush hour traffic and had an hour drive to get to the train station from our camp. Once we arrived at the Mount Arlington station, we had to figure out where to purchase the tickets. This was the most expensive part of the day. I noticed everyone was lining up on the opposite side of the tracks so we scurried over to the correct side and confirmed it with a few daily commuters. From the conversation with them, we realized we had to switch trains in Dover before ending up in Penn Station. The locals were extremely helpful putting us in the right direction. Phase one was completed.
At 8:30 am, we found ourselves looking around in circles in disbelief at how large Penn Station, NYC was. It reminded me of the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, but busier. Knowing we needed to get on the subway, we made our way to another automated booth to purchase our tickets. A set of 4-5 booths were flooded with a constant stream of at least 50 users. I watched as people hastily pushed the buttons, inputted their cards, and off they went in seconds. Our turn came. We were told we could purchase a ticket that would allow us to ride the subway all we wanted. What we did not know was it was a 7 day pass, not one day. Joel and I studied the words, looking back and forth on different screens trying to make sure we did not pass over it. Finally a kind lady behind us offered to help. Phew. We were on our way again. As we approached the turnstiles, I noticed no attendant was around. We heard that kids were free. How would Elijah be free? I walked up to a security guard and asked him. Typically if the child could walk under the turnstile, he would be free. Then he said, “Aw, just have him duck under it and you’ll be fine.” Phase two was finished.
We took the subway all the way down to Lower Manhattan and followed the signs to the Staton Island Ferry. This is a free, city run commuter ferry that leaves every 15 minutes. Since it was just minutes after 9 am, I thought we missed the ferry. As we approached, I heard a voice say, “If you hurry, they’ll hold the ferry for you…Run!” I don’t think I even looked back, I directed the boys to start running. We made it. Moments later, we were underway. Wow. We were actually in New York City! After all of the commuting transfers, we could finally relax and enjoy our day. I gazed out the window while Joel went outside the ferry for better pictures. Our day was beautiful. Sunny, blue sky, great temperature for walking about, and the entire day ahead of us.
Within minutes we were passing by the Statue of Liberty. This was the main attraction that drew me to this city in the first place. My mind wandered to what immigrants must have thought after such a long voyage, seeing Lady Liberty for the first time. Freedom. A new life. I could see how some must have weeped and others jump for joy at her greeting. They saw this country as a land of opportunity, a place where hard work could actually pay off. They made no more excuses about their upbringing. They saw this as a symbol of hope and a good future for their children.
After a half hour ride round trip, we disembarked and started our walk to Wall Street. We arrived at the golden bull statue, representing a good stock market, at the same time as a large group of asian tourists. We patiently waited around in the chaos of their many pictures trying to figure out our turn for the photo. It was not happening. Joel said one lady had to have been in at least 7 different pictures at different angles. Slowly and conscientiously he made his way up toward the front, but each time someone else popped into “his” spot. Finally, he stood in front “posing”. But his pose blocked most of the bull’s head. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself as I saw my giant man stand at least a head higher than any of them and strike a sweet smile. They all dropped their cameras down and moved back. I took the quick snapshot and let the buzzing swarm of people hover around again.
With all of the popular sites, I had forgotten about the historic side. This was our nation’s first capital. We were able to see where George Washington was inaugurated. Inside a historic building, the opening lines of his address were on display. I am increasingly in awe of what a role model and man of God he was. He clearly gave God the glory and acknowledged His divine providence in creating the United States. He was keenly aware that God is in control of all the nations as he so humbly took on the office.
A short walk later, we came to Ground Zero, the World Trade Center Bombing Memorial. A large number of police officers were in one area as people solemnly approached the two square pools/ fountains with respect. Joel and I relayed our memories of that fateful day before our approach. It is one of those events where you will always remember where you were and how you found out about the terrorist “bombings”. We felt it was important to show the boys what radical Islamic believers are willing to do to innocent people. Each pool had several rows of names of the deceased written in the metal surrounding it. I pointed out that each one of these real people had their lives stolen from them. Of course each of them also have family that won’t ever be the same.
As a side note, I am beginning to believe the terroristic actions are truly influencing and winning over America. Are we being scared into submission? How can it be that after so many bombings, rapes, stabbings, and trauma from that religion around the world people are turning to that religion? I always thought of New York as being a heavily populated Jewish and Italian area. Why is it all the street vender trucks advertise ‘Halal meats” now? I did not see anything advertised as “Kosher”. Why are we bending over backwards accepting their persecution and inviting more likeminded followers to enter our country? Wasn’t 9/11 enough?
I could go on further, but back to our New York City Experience. Because we started our day early, my internal dinner bell went off early. We heard about the great food, both in quality and quantity, over in Chinatown. This was quite a fun experience. This was better than an EPCOT experience placing us in a little piece of China. Chinese characters yelled out on every colorful sign. Fire escapes, brick buildings with closely parked cars. Smells of asian cooking, tea, and seafood permeated the air. Not sure which restaurant to go into, I walked up to a storefront. I thought it might be a food venue, but the listing turned out to be a listing of the week’s events…I think…since it was all written with the characters. Moving on down the bustling street, we went past a couple restaurants because we weren’t sure if something “normal” like sesame chicken was served. Finally we came across a place that had a great lunch deal. For $5.50 each, we had green tea, egg drop soup, a large bowl of rice and a giant platter of sesame chicken and broccoli. These lunch portions sure felt like dinner sized. Everything was crispy fresh and delicious. We couldn’t have fed our family so well for that price at a fast food joint. We left well impressed.
After lunch, we hopped on the subway again to go a few miles up to Central Park. We stood out as tourists, especially with two school aged boys in tow in the middle of the week… PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR PART II COMING SOON.
Until we meet again,