by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac ~
This Easter, by happenstance, I ended up home, alone in New York City. It was the first time, in a long time, that I had the opportunity to spend this holy day in my hometown. This particular day was the first day, in a long time, that you could walk outside in a t-shirt, sans the scarf, hat and jacket and enjoy the sunny 75 degree weather!
I decided that it would be an ideal day to get outside and stroll through the city. Then, it dawned on me, that it would be the perfect time to go and pay homage once again at the World Trade Center.
I have three very special connections to this sacred place. It was 1983, when I worked as a waiter at Windows on the World restaurant atop of the World Trade Center. It was here that I was schooled in the art of fine wine and service. It was my first encounter with the infamous legacy of chief James Beard, the steadfast maitre d’, Mrs. Lee and two of my dearest waiter colleagues, Kimberly and Michael. In those early years of my dance career, it was the restaurant that fed me, educated me and helped me pay my rent!
On September 10th, 2001, my brother Steven, his wife Katherine and myself, took our parents to Windows on the World for a drink to celebrate their wedding anniversary on that day. I recalled the swift ride up in the large elevators, recollecting back to my days as a waiter, traveling up and down in them for a year. In the bar, I remember looking out of the tall, floor to ceiling windows at the spectacular orange sunset, as we toasted my parents and their joyful union of 45 years together.
The next morning, September 11th, 2001, I was crossing Fifth Avenue early in the morning to meet my friend Antonio for breakfast. As I stride across, I noticed everyone in the street looking south. As I turned to see what everyone’s eye were fixed on, I saw the first plane as it hit the North Tower. The image, burned into my mind, will always be apart of my psyche.
So now, 10 years later, I was off to see the progress and reinvention of the World Trade Center. With Ipod in tow, I walked along the waterfront down Hudson River Park. Hudson River Park is the largest park to be built in Manhattan since the completion of Central Park. The Park offers facilities for active and passive New Yorkers with tennis courts, basketball, jogging and cycling paths for the active participant and ample space to layout and get sun, benches for resting and grassy knolls to relax upon. Stretching from 42nd street to Battery Park, this landscaped, manicured and constantly evolving recreation of the Westside Highway has been an amazing transformation. I was curious to see the brand new children’s playground, miniature golf and skate park that just opened a few weeks before. What I also discovered on my walk to the World Trade Center, was an incredible new installation of a boardwalk that reminded me of being in Fire Island. Exquisitely landscaped with huge rocks and a boardwalk rising and falling over gently rolling hills, this wonderful passage was adorn with fragrant pine trees and juniper bushes. Strategic plantings of seasonal grasses and low ground cover added to its appeal. Benches where placed at the edges of the boardwalk, which made for very private spaces in a wide open area flanked by the Hudson river on the west and the Westside Highway to the east.
On a special note, the Hudson River Park’s 400 acres of water area have been designated as the Hudson River Park Estuarine Sanctuary. Estuaries occur where fresh water from the land meets salt water from the ocean, resulting in a dynamic nutrient-rich habitat with high biodiversity. This designation acknowledges the importance of the sanctuary as an official New York State significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife habitat.
As I approached the area of the World Trade Center, I passed an entire block of fragrant jasmine trees in full bloom. The scent from this heavenly flower is one of the sweetest and most memorable fragrances on earth. I reached up and pick a bloom to take with me to my destination.
I walked up Warren Street and turned the corner trying to get my bearings and recognize anything I could remember from before that day. Landmarks I knew, seemed to be either shadows of their former selves or gone entirely. It had been five years since I last visited the site and the borders around the area have continued to change and morph as the construction progresses. At that exact moment on my IPod, the song, Night On Bald Mountain started playing. Unaware of what I was listening to before this, the swirling strings and thunderous base immediately brought back in my mind, the confusion and horror of that day! I listened with great intent as I walked through the stone canyons. I could not help but think about those who endured the unspeakable. Tension rose up in my throat and I actually broke out in a sweat.
All of a sudden, I rounded a corner and a bell in the music started tolling. It resonated in my ear like a tranquilizer. The tone and rhythm of the music at the end of Bald Mountain, finishes with the redeeming light and sunrise, clearly recognizable in the music by the choir. In Fantasia, Disney’s musical interpretation of several beloved classical music pieces, (which I was listening to), Night on Bald Mountain is paired with its “yin counterpart, Ave Maria. This is one of the most influential musical pairings in history, that deserves high recognition for its relevance. As Ave Maria swelled in my ears, I burst into tears as my eyes became fixed on the new Freedom Tower. Standing at 58 stories (about 680 feet, less than halfway to its planned 1,776-foot height), the steel and glass figure commanded attention! I was then made wonderfully aware of the resurrection taking place before me. I stopped to say a prayer and offered the Jasmine bloom in respect for those who are interred there. It will be an Easter that will remain ever important in my memory.