The first time I went to New York was in March 2002. This was a city bruised from recent events; battered and dazed yet defiant. We visited Ground Zero; my little sister drew a heart on the wall of messages to the lost souls of that Tuesday morning.
Fast-forward thirteen years.
I returned to that very same spot. The dusty, gaping crater was replaced by a beautiful memorial. Visitors came and went, paid their respects and lingered. The sun beat down and reflected off the water, illuminating the names of the nearly 3,000 souls lost on that fateful Tuesday morning.
The light dances off the surface of the pools as it dances off the windows of the building looming above. An ode to a lost landmark, this is a brave new building, standing tall amidst the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan.
The observatory opened to the public just weeks before we arrived. You could still smell the fresh paint in the lobby.
Entry costs $32 and I’d advise booking ahead to avoid the queues – you can buy tickets here.
Upon entry – and following extensive security checks – we were ushered through a darkened corridor lined with stone, meant to symbolise the solid foundations of the tower. We entered the lift, walls made of screens showing the transformation of New York over millennia as we flew upwards.
The doors opened and we entered a theatre. The screen played abstract snapshots of New York life – momentary glances of the city moving, changing, colliding. The screen lifts to reveal the view of New York City, 102 floors above those peaceful pools.
The view is breathtaking, of course – how could it not be? New York is a beautiful city, and the observatory offers panoramic views in every direction.
The One World Observatory experience, however, was unexpected. For a symbol of such tragedy and hope, I expected something more thoughtful. More contemplative, less… Disneyfied. The events of September 11th were left by the memorial pools. Visitors wandered the observatory floor, official One World iPads glued to their eyes, blocking the very view they were describing. They buy keyrings, koozies and thermos flasks emblazoned with the image of the tower.
We took the elevator back down – the screens taking us on a rollercoaster ride through the New York sky line – and returned to the memorial pools. For a beautiful view of Manhattan and a new perspective on the iconic New York City sights, the observatory is unbeatable… Just try to ignore the iPads and commemorative t-shirts.