Friday, July 12, 2019

An Emotional Journey Down Memory Lane

Hi, there!  Long time no speak with!  We were busy, busy, busy, maximizing our time in the Metro NY area while volunteering at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Basking Ridge, NJ.

We took the train back into New York City to visit the National September 11 Memorial Museum (  We were blessed to have visited the World Trade Center multiple times prior to 9/11.  Mom first visited during a high school trip back in its early days of opening.  She also attended several work-related parties at Windows of the World, the restaurant that was located at the top of the original World Trade Center.  Back in the day, Dad even worked on the Trade Center, overseeing the installation of the customized bus canopies at the main entrances. Fittingly, the company he retired from installed the interior and exterior glass, glazing and stainless steel panels of the Memorial Museum.

The tragedy of 9/11 affected all of us personally in the Metro NY area, for each of us had some connection to a lost life. For us it was the loss of a grammar school classmate, a neighbor, a work associate’s family member, and a schoolmate’s spouse. (We learned from a monument at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge that a former staff member was also a victim of the travesty.)  It was important to us to pay our respects and say a prayer for the innocent souls killed at the hands of terrorists.

The attack of September 11, 2001, was our Pearl Harbor, our Holocaust, our generation’s senseless loss of life at the hands of evil.  To think these were everyday people just like my parents, going about their everyday lives, performing everyday tasks.  No one could ever have known that gorgeous, cloudless, true blue-sky day would be the darkest of our lives.  Those who read this blog regularly know that this Rambling RV Rat is not political or controversial.  I do not promote hate and violence, nor do I have any prejudices against any religion.  But much violence has been done through history because of or in the name of religion, from persecution of the Jews, to burning Christians on crosses, to Crusaders raping and pillaging non-Christian sects, to radical Muslims deep hatred of the infidel who do not follow the tenets of Islam.  It is wrong, it is evil.  Those who perished on September 11, 2001, represented the very fabric of our country.  They were from all races, religions, and cultures.  They were of all ages, with all different professions, from custodians to CEOs.   They were just like US!  So it is important never to fall prey to those who undermine what happened.  We must never forget the inhumanity—it was terrorism, pure evil—and it changed our lives forever.  I only wish that people today would remember how we bonded AFTER the tragedy.  We didn’t see color or race or religion, but we saw brothers, sisters, moms, dads, wives, husbands, and children grieving—and we grieved with them.  We did prayer vigils, lined up for blood drives, and donated money to help the surviving families.  We were Americans, honoring our flag, respecting our first responders, and loving our Country.  I wish we could be as strong, united, and vigilant now as we were then. Anyway…

The Museum is very tastefully done.  Many years of discussions with surviving families ensued before building plans were finalized.  And rightfully so—the remains of approximately 40% of the victims have never been recovered.  So these grounds are sacred, respected, and treaded upon lightly.  And, out of deference, I refrained from taking pictures inside the Museum.  The Museum also honors the victims of Flight 93, Flight 11, Flight 175, Flight 77, and even those from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Because the Museum gets very crowded very quickly, we opted to purchase the Early Access Museum Guided Tour for $60 each, which begins at 8:15 a.m., before the Museum opens to the public.

Visiting the Museum and Memorial is very emotional. We saw the piece of steel that the nose of one of the planes hit.  We heard the victims voices echoing in the Museum, saw their photos on the wall, and felt the presence of their spirits.  I broke down in tears when I saw the photo exhibit of people who jumped from windows, taking matters into their own hands.  I often think I probably would have done the same in their place.  Another poignant exhibit was the Chelsea Jeans Memorial.  This retail store on Broadway near Fulton Street preserved a store display from that tragic day.  Clothing is covered in ash, debris, and dust.  A snapshot of a moment in time.  A special exhibit was dedicated to the canine rescue team members.  Sadly, they suffered from severe depression when they were not successful in rescuing an injured person.  So their handlers and first responders would sometimes hide so that the dogs could find them.  Then the canines would be happy that they were successful in their mission of finding survivors.  An emotional roller coaster, even for doggies.

We walked around the fountains outside, reading each name, letting each person know they are remembered.  To quote Virgil, as displayed in the Museum: “No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory of Time.”

Inside the World Trade Center PATH Station 

The North Tower Memorial Fountain in the foreground. You can see the "wings" of the butterfly design of the exterior of the World Trade Center PATH in the background.  The architectural design included mechanisms to make those wings move, but funding reductions prohibited this aspect from coming to fruition.


The first 20 floors of the World Trade Center are vacant.  They are just concrete and glass.


A new section at the Memorial Museum... dedicated to First Responders.

How ironic that a building designed to represent "man's belief in humanity" is destroyed by evil-doers hell-bent on destroying human life.

My Mom read a book many years ago written by a motorcycling acquaintance, Kathryn Bedard.  It is called, “Stones in my Heart Forever—9/11:  A Journey Through Courage, Strength, and Hope”.  Kathy volunteered to work at the Family Disaster Relief Assistance Center in Jersey City for many months following the World Trade Center attack.  The book is a poignant journal of the multitude of emotions evoked when dealing with families directly impacted by the attack.  It is a heart-wrenching, touching personal account of 9/11 well worth your time to read.

A visitor joined us as we sat outside the National September 11 Museum to regroup from our emotional journey. 

Well, I was a bit spent emotionally by the time we left the World Trade Center.  I needed to regroup.  So we walked Highline Park.  It is amazing to think that this beautifully-adorned garden trail was once an elevated rail line!  As we traversed the trail, we enjoyed views of the Hudson River, marveled at the multitude of restaurants, enjoyed the eclectic artwork, and reviewed the list of many activities available for participation.  From exercise, to yoga, to music in the park, there is something for everyone.  The Highline terminates at Hudson Yards, a gentrified community of high-end condos, restaurants, and retail shops.  We walked up “The Vessel”, a stairwell in the center of the community pavilion consisting of 16 stories and 2,500 stairs.  It is quite an engineering feat and provided some nice views of the West Side of the City.  Well, all that walking made me hungry.  Back for our final visit to Benjamin Steakhouse ( and another stupendous dinner with superb service from Ricky.  If I gave out higher than a 5-cheese award, Benjamin Steakhouse would receive it!

Isn't this the coolest chair!

Some cool artwork!

Some unusual architectural styles...

"The Vessel"

We went down to Central Jersey to the town in which we resided for 26 years to donate some historical artwork to the local library and to catch up with long-time friends Les and Nancy.  We first met them in 1987, and although we all lived in the same town, we first met them in Princeton as volunteers for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).  As many may remember, for more than four decades, Jerry Lewis hosted a 21-hour telethon over Labor Day weekend to raise funds for the organization.   What folks may not realize is that throughout the country, there were local centers that hosted simultaneous mini-telethons, raising money for a particular region.  These mini-telethons included local talent who donated their time, and people would come out to make a donation and enjoy a few hours of listening to a band, laughing at a comedian, or getting a balloon animal made by a clown.   Volunteers would be responsible for answering the phone calls of generous folks pledging donations, stuffing donation envelopes, and pre-sorting envelopes by zip code in stacks of 25 to assist the USPS with delivery.  Other volunteers were responsible for providing food and refreshments.    Mom had been an active volunteer at a mini-telethon since the age of 13. Once Dad took her as his betrothed, he got involved as well.  Anyway, friends Les and Nancy served as volunteer coordinators at the Princeton call center for many years.  And as we participated in other community service organizations throughout the years, we would continue to see this fine, generous couple volunteering their time and energy.

Les and Nancy

Les and Nancy's three therapy dogs.  Les and the doggies are regular visitors at local nursing homes and hospitals.  Just another example of the good works this couple does.

While back in the Central Jersey area, we just had to stop at Terhune Orchards and Winery (, 200 acres of veggies, fruits, and flowers tended by the 10th generation of family farmers!   They have a farm store, but we always opt for pick-your-own.  $4.25/pound was a bit pricey, but then again this is prestigious Princeton and you pay for the experience.  While Mom and Dad went to pick asparagus, I visited the petting zoo to see the new baby goat and reconnect with the family’s dogs.  In the past, the doggies would roam the property freely, but now must be penned up, probably due to insurance issues.  What a sad, litigious society we have become!

We then visited Hallock’s Farm ( in New Egypt, another of the u-pick farms we frequented regularly during our sticks-and-bricks life.  Hallock’s had pick-your-own strawberries for $1.99/pound!  What a bargain!  We went a bit overboard on strawberry picking, but we wanted to share them with Les and Nancy as well as our fellow RV Volunteers at Great Swamp.  Anyway, Mom insisted we bring our chest freezer on this trip East—we will be able to enjoy frozen strawberries when we get back to TX!

We couldn’t be in NJ without stopping at Pizzatown USA in Elmwood Park (check out their Facebook page).  My grandparents would take Mom and Aunt Laurie here as little girls.  This place would be perfect for an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”.  Nothing has changed since it opened in 1958—same motif, same paper cups, same low-budget operation run by the same family (the founder just died recently, but his daughters and son have been working there since young teens and run the operation in its traditional style).  But most importantly, same delectable food.  They have the absolute, hands down, bestest deep fried ham and cheese calzones!  Dad rarely cheats on his plant-based diet, but he cashed in a chip for this place.  Mom and I also polished off a dozen zeppole,—small balls of dough dropped in piping hot oil, deep fried until golden brown, then smothered in confectionery sugar!  To die for!

While Dad went into Rockland County, NY, to catch up with work associates, Mom reached out to her friend Ilona.  Though they last saw each other 30 years ago, they maintained contact with each other through cards, letters, and email.  Well, it turns out Ilona lives within a few short miles of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.  She popped over for a happy reunion!

We rode Rat Patrol, our side-by-side buggy, down to the Basking Ridge Country Club.  No, not for a round of golf (although this is a public course), but to meet with friend Barbara for lunch at Delicious Heights Outpost ( an eatery at the Club.  Barb was one of a group of gal pals from Jersey City with whom Mom would do the dance club circuit back in the 80s.  In fact, Barb was there when Mom met Dad!  The Outpost had a nice menu, with plant-based options for Dad, too.  We were all pleasantly surprised with the quality, quantity and taste of our selections.  Since we had so much to catch up on, we all came back home to enjoy some of Mom's desserts.  Good times with a good friend!

Before we knew it, it was blueberry season.  Down we drove to Dimeo Farms in Hammonton, NJ.  We had never picked here before, but we would be back again!  These are the all-time-best blueberries we have EVER picked.  HUGE, tasty, organic heirloom berries in well-manicured orchards, combined with the ambiance of a newly-restored farmhouse event-center from which classical music is piped to the fields.  I felt like I was in another place and time.

There is so much more to tell you about—which I’ll do in another post.  Talk to you again soon!

We would like to thank the following organizations for all the great service and support they offer to the RVing community:

Escapees RV Club


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RV Dreams

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  1. Such a busy time! We lived Upstate for several years a have visited the City. Would love to see the Memorial one day. Steve spent time there right after the bombing to secure financial computer systems. Friends and U-pick! Nice!

  2. A very moving post. So glad you also were able to visit some old your old favorite places