The other sound of New York City

Tuesday, June 26, 2017

I expected honking the moment I entered New York City limits. It’s an expectation thought for only a moment, before it turned into an expression of annoyance. And New York didn’t fail me. There was honking at every corner.

I’m not used to constant honking. I’m from a small town in Michigan, where there is plenty of land and rural life, and lack of urban vibe. But the more time I spend in New York City, the more I realized and taught myself to tune out the horns. Eventually the noise became part of the hustle and bustle of the city.

Unfortunately, when I didn’t pay attention to where I was going, the honking turned into a blaring noise, filled with frustrations and muted yelling behind a car windshield. Red faced New Yorkers shake their head at my inattentiveness. I made sure to pay more attention to crosswalk signs after that.

The only place where New York City resembled anything remote to silence is at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, where the new One World Trade Center currently stands. The sound of New York City is different here. The clicking of cameras, soft murmurs of family members visiting the location of their lost loved ones, and the eternal whisper of water falling into the Twin Towers’ memorial pools, echo in this part of Lower Manhattan.

I entered the space quietly. Voices around me resounded in hushed tones. People surrounding the waterfall memorial ran their fingers over bronze plates inscribed with names of loved ones, both innocent and those who risked their lives to save others. The dull roar of the eternal water falling into the pool silences the noises outside the complex. Sadness lingered, mingling with the peaceful environment.

Amidst all the New York City chaos, the new One World Trade Center building stands silently, towering over all skyscrapers and artistically outshining them architecturally. A reminder of unity and strength, One World Trade Center commands attention, gathering tourists from all four corners of the Earth to admire not only its beauty but also its solidarity.

The silence was comforting. Murmurs can be heard all around, but it is evident that people came to pay their respects. Muffled sniffles and hidden tears can be heard and seen by the families of the fallen. The honking is drowned out by the North and South memorial pools. It’s as if the traffic disappeared. The world seemed to come to a standstill, as everyone remembered in somber silence the tragedy that transpired over 15 years ago.

Just standing there felt different. Experiencing it was so surreal. I tried to imagine the devastation, the smoke, debris, what it was like before it became this memorial. It was like a whole new atmosphere, almost like stepping into a bubble of some sorts. A calming presence inserted itself into the area, as if to comfort visiting families and tourists. Words didn’t need to be said. The quiet spoke volumes.

Trees were planted within the perimeter of the World Trade Center complex, which is a rare sight. The only trees you really see are planted in Central Park, a plethora of greenery shaped in rectangular form. The trees in the One World Trade Center complex, only planted three or so years ago, have yet to mature, tethered to the ground by guying anchors and thin metal ropes. One tree in particular, a callery pear tree that survived in the 9/11 rubble is known as “the Survivor Tree.” A little older than the newly planted tree, “The Survivor Tree” tells the story of hope and rebirth. This tree and all the other trees planted symbolizes a nation rising from the rubble, and restarting. Their very existence implies new life. One day, once the baby trees mature, they will also subdue the New York City noise.

I was only at the memorial for 15 minutes, but it did something to me. It calmed my stressful spirit. My own frustrations evaporated and I reflected on the past. I reveled in the muted undertones of New York City, enjoyed the scenery for the thousands that couldn’t do so anymore.

Courtesy of

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