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NYC’s symbol of a changed world: The One World Observatory

New York City
New York City

IT was an event that changed the world forever.

Just as earlier generations would remember where they were on learning of Churchill’s death or JFK’s assassination, everyone recalls hearing of the attack on the twin towers.

Remarkably, it’s 15 years since 9/11 and New Yorkers are nothing if not resilient.

As the nation got set to mark the anniversary, I’m stood at the building which has risen out of the horror and devastation.

The One World Observatory was built on a vacant site right next to the towers.

Opened in May last year, it’s an engineering marvel – the strongest building ever constructed – and a New York wonder you just cannot miss.

The wonders begin as you step into the elevator which carries you smoothly, but at ear-popping pace, up to the 102nd floor. In the 60 seconds it takes to ascend 1776 feet, the video screens on the four walls take you through a timeline of New York through the centuries to the present day.

We alight to a platform with another video wall portraying the city’s people and rich vibrancy.

Then, in a heart-soaring moment, the screens rise and before us lies the harbour and Statue of Liberty.

It is truly a lump in the throat, tear in the eye experience that leaves us gasping.

We make our way one floor down past One Dine, surely a restaurant with one of the world’s best views, to the 100th floor observatory.

The 360-degree panorama from both rivers, the East and the Hudson, up to Central Park just has to be seen to be believed.

The airport-style security on entry – in fact at every major city attraction – is a reminder of the changed world. And looking down we can see the 9/11 memorial, which is our next stop on a tour of “new” New York.

The two giant pools, water tumbling down from all four sides, are surrounded by the names of the
near-3000 people who lost their lives that day.

Some of the engraved names have flowers or American flags pinned to them, but the most emotional part by far is the 9/11 Memorial Museum underneath.

Inside we see the foundations of the towers and some of the twisted metal. And we are hugely moved when two of those present that day tell us their own personal stories in the auditorium.  For police officer Paul, the recollections include how, with bridges and tunnels to Manhattan closed, he and fellow officers requisitioned fishing boats to cross the east river into the city.

Even 15 years on his voice breaks with emotion as he remembers some who didn’t come back.

And for former fireman Dan it’s a sound that he’ll never forget, the noise of the chirping alarms worn by the firefighters pinned beneath the rubble.

It’s been an emotional day and after a subway ride we’re back up in Midtown at our hotel which is pretty new – but old – too.

The Intercontinental Barclay is one of New York’s great railway hotels but it’s just reopened after a $180 million revamp.

Our room is more than a bit special, from the checkerboard marble tiles at the door to the
super-comfy beds which we return to find have been turned down for the night.

Classy but not stuffy, it sits on 48th Street, next to the Waldorf Astoria and just by Grand Central Terminal so it’s in the most perfect location to see all the city offers, old or new.

New York has never been short of great museums and galleries and the latest edition is the super-stylish Whitney Museum of American Art.

There’s a striking display of prints, artworks and sculptures, some great fun, some downright weird.

Right outside is the start of the High Line, one of the best places to stretch your legs.

It’s an old, elevated railway line converted into a flower and tree-lined walkway.  As we walk along, we see all ages enjoying fresh air, water features, cafes and even railway sleeper sunbeds.

And if new museums do appeal, the Met Breuer, just opened in March, is a fresh addition and worth adding to your “new” itinerary.

Don’t miss next week for our look at all the city’s must-see old favourites.


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