Once our bags were packed and we checked out of the hotel we headed toward the final monument of the tour - the 9/11 memorial and museum, and a visit to the observation deck of the Freedom Tower, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere standing 1776 feet tall.
The 9/11 memorial is a series of waterfalls at the footprints of the original towers. Several of the students had family friends who perished on 9/11 and we were fortunate enough to find the names of one of them Lorenzo Ramzey.
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum tells a somber story and for some it was difficult to hear. Before entering the museum spaces we spoke to the students about what they may see and what happened on September 11, 2001. We reminded them that their parents, their school and their community are all here to keep them safe and that work is constantly being done by security personnel and armed forces toward that effort. They had many questions and we answered them and reminded them that we didn't always have all the answers but just like anything in history that has affected us, we are tasked with learning so that it may never happen again. Upon entering the museum, students saw remnants of fire trucks, pictures of those who perished and heard recordings of the day's event. They also saw pieces of steel foundation, staircases and the original slurry wall that holds water from the Hudson River back.
When we left the museum area, we sat in a circle under trees and shared what we learned and about how we felt. We spoke about how the Holocaust, while so much greater in magnitude, was caused by those with the same intent of destruction.
We were inspired by the growth and rebuilding at the World Trade Center. Many buildings were destroyed on 9/11 - not just the twin towers. In their place, is growth and re-development, including the Freedom Tower. We were fortunate enough to spend time high in the sky on the observation deck and observe city views from a new point of view.
For lunch, we headed to Washington Square park in the middle Greenwich village, for a Yom Ha'Atzmaut picnic lunch and a chance to play I the sunshine before heading home. To our surprise, students from NYU (the NYU campus surrounds the park) had organized a Yom Ha'Atzmaut celebration with music, celebration livelihood and joy. They shared some flags with us and our students were eager to share in Israeli pride.
Now the trip has come to an end, and as they travel home, we know that our students enjoyed their travels and learned more then they realized, bringing fill circle not only the knowledge of their heritage and Judaism, but of Math, Science, History and Art.