New York Wall Street "Charging Bull" bronze staue which is up for sale
Mike Segar  /  Reuters file
Tourists visit one of the most recognized statues in Manhattan, a 7,000-pound bronze "Charging Bull," sculpted and owned by Arturo Di Modic stands on a sidwalk on lower Broadway near wall Street in New York City.
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updated 6/8/2005 4:03:31 PM ET 2005-06-08T20:03:31

As I hopped off the bright red double-decker bus at a Gray Line tour stop, South Street Seaport, my heart beat a little faster. I was headed to a kiosk to obtain a free ticket for the Ground Zero viewing Platform. Finding that tickets were available every ten minutes, I opted for a boat ride around Lower Manhattan first. New York Waterways had a boat leaving pronto, so purchasing a $9 ticket, and went aboard with lots of other tourists.

As we headed up the Hudson River, the tour guide pointed out the usual sights. Suddenly, the patter stopped, the boat slowed and we saw a vast empty space to our right. Surrounded by soaring skyscrapers, one swathed in black plastic netting, a flag on its wall — this was it. Ground Zero. Despite the passage of time, one's heart sank, just remembering that unbelievable day. Light bounced off the Hudson River, flooding the empty hole with a shimmering glow.

Few passengers said anything until the boat moved on. The Captain of the boat said they had been there that day, ferrying people across the river. In fact, as I talked to friends and strangers alike, each had a story to tell about 9/11. The guide continued his talk as we passed close by the lovely Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and returned to South Street Seaport.

I picked up my ticket to the platform and began a six-block walk up Fulton Street to the site. The entire once closed cafes, shops and stores were open and venders were hawking photos and trinkets about 9/11, anything for a buck. Nearing the area, I was amazed by the thousands of mementos, shirts, hats, letters and banners hanging on nearby barbed-wire fences.

Slideshow: The Big Apple One large banner stood out. Sent from the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce to wish the firefighters and policemen the best. Trucks, cars and equipment jammed the streets and walking was tricky. I noted the large black lock fastened on a closed subway entrance. No more than 250 viewers at a time were allowed at one time, so visitors from around the world chatted quietly.

I met tourists from England, Europe, Asia and Kansas City who felt it was respectful to visit the site while they were enjoying the city. The view was actually a let down and disturbing all at once. Just an empty hole, each of us imagined it before and in the future with buildings again rising from the ground. I had to go there and felt the trip to be important.

The famous New York energy was all around us, and you couldn't miss the vibrancy of the New Yorkers as they rushed all over town on their business. But there is an underlying tension under the "business as usual" attitude and at the drop of a hat, people stopped to talk.

My son, Drew has an ad agency in the Chelsea Market Place building at 15th and 9th Avenue, and on 9/11, he and his colleagues stood in the little park opposite and watched the whole terrifying spectacle. In stunned horror, they listened to radios and cell phones as the second plane slammed into the second tower.

He said that it didn't truly hit home until he entered his apartment building on the upper West side and saw a hand-written note asking "if anyone has seen my Mommy?" A neighbor had lost her Mother that morning. Most of the firemen in the station near his office perished and for weeks, he and others in the office building served coffee to the rescuers, and gathered needed items for Red cross shelters. As he said, as New Yorkers, we bonded unlike ever before.

"Whatever comfort was to be had was found by doing something. Ten months later 9/11 remains a dark vision that haunts the skyline of our minds. We find ourselves looking over our shoulders like never before. We may have been scarred, but mortally wounded, Never!" Life goes on with more vigor than ever.

Interestingly enough, the neighborhoods near Ground Zero, Tribeca, Soho, Greenwich and others are suddenly real estate magnets. Prices are soaring and New Yorkers who thought once of moving away, are moving down here. Tourists are returning in droves, and theatres are teeming. It was wonderful to weave one's way around the city, smiling at other visitors and New Yorkers as well. Yes! Friendly is the motto. Are you ready for this? Every taxi driver I met was polite and offered to tell his story of 9/11. But don't worry, the New York hustle and bustle is still there.

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How to see this mammoth metropolis in less than a week? I believe in tours. No matter how many times I visit the city, there is something more to see. My favorite is the Gray Line whose buses go everywhere. I bought a 48-hour pass for the "hop-on-hop-off tours of the whole city, including boat tours. Ph. 1-800-669-0051. If you like walking, try Big Apple Greeters who offer free walking tours of the city. Ph. 212-669-8159. Or Big Onion Walking Tours, Ph. 212-439-1090. For a City Pass call 707-256-0490. New York Pass, call 212-977-8680. Also call NYC&Co. for all information and pass books. 212-484-1200.

New York abounds in free offerings all summer, including days at museums, concerts in Bryant and Central Parks, and other sights. Don't miss the Intrepid Sea and Space Museum on the 900-foot aircraft carrier. The Metropolitan Museum has superb offerings this summer and its rooftop is a perfect setting for a glass of wine at sunset. Theatre is swinging and it's best to get tickets ahead, or stand in line at 46th for extra tickets.

Restaurants: You have to eat and with 17,000 eateries to try, it's best to plan ahead. My newest favorite is in the hot new Ian Shrager's Hudson Hotel. Hudson Cafeteria has a high vaulted ceiling room with long tables to share. The menu includes comfort foods (meatloaf and macaroni and cheese) as well as culinary wonders. Great for kids as well as adults. (212) 554-6500.

The "21 Club" is for a special lunch or dinner. You'll see celebrities and real people as well. The atmosphere is warm and cozy. I loved returning there after some time and finding the menu beautifully updated, but the atmosphere the same. Ph. 212-582-7200

Other top eateries include, Nobu, Guastavinos, Tavern on the Green, Russian Tea Room, Café des Artistes, Harrisons, and one of my favorites, Jean Georges. For history and good food, try Fraunces Tavern near Wall Street, where Gen Washington said goodbye to his troops.

As you wander the neighborhoods of N. Y. , you discover your favorites. Get the booklet from NYC&CO that fills you in on hotels as well. N. Y City is having a terrific summer promotion that reduces hotel rates all over the city, so you can try your favorites. I've always liked the Wyndham on 59th, and the brand new Ritz-Carleton in the Battery City complex even has special summer rates. The Sheraton "W"s are all well liked and the Four Seasons is sheer elegance. The Plaza has special rates as well. If you have a special little girl with you, take her to the Plaza for high tea. The Mark also has a wonderful high tea. The Hudson on W. 58th is new and stunning.

What more can I say about everyone's favorite city? It's thriving, despite its tragic happenings on 9/11. New Yorkers are fighters and no one can damage their city without paying for it. Attitude is everything and believe me, the New Yorkers haven't lost theirs, not by a long shot.

IF YOU GO:

For casual eating, try Columbus Ave. Café Fiorello has outside dining as well as inside. Great Saturday and Sunday brunches. 212-595-5330.

Travelworld International Magazine features articles, columns, and photos from members of the North American Travel Journalists Association. For more information on Travelworld Magazine, please contact the NATJA by phone (310) 836-8712 or email at info@natja.org.

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