Tribune Print Share Text

Fresh in their minds

Ann’s Choice residents make a memorable trip to Ground Zero

Created date

November 3rd, 2015
Ann's Choice residents at Ground Zero
Ann's Choice residents at Ground Zero

When the Ann’s Choice Trips and Travel bus left the Erickson Living community in Bucks County, Pa., Sept. 9, all 42 seats were filled. The occupants eagerly anticipated their trip to the new One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

Transportation department driver Frank Biron was at the wheel and fellow driver Jim Rossen was concierge.

Instead of hassling with driving, parking, and navigating on foot through Manhattan, residents rode in comfort, chatted with their neighbors, and were dropped off and picked up a short walk from the venue.

“9/11 isn’t ancient history. It happened now, and everyone should experience [the museum],” says resident Elise Bratis. “But going on your own would be inconvenient and difficult.” 

Ann’s Choice residents made this trip three times before: two trips took place after the reflecting pools were completed. The third occurred when the 9/11 museum opened. 

This fourth trip included the One World Observatory recently opened on the 102nd floor of the One World Trade Center building.

Self-guided museum tours

Every resident remembered where they’d been on Sept. 11, 2001. As they entered the museum and made the physical and emotional descent far below ground, those memories returned afresh.

Flanked by a massive retaining wall that survived the attack and kept the Hudson River from breaking through and flooding lower Manhattan, Ann’s Choice residents made their way through Foundation Hall to the exhibition rooms.

They knew they’d see and hear wrenching reminders of 9/11.

The exhibits showcased debris, artifacts, photos, videos, and computerized displays detailing the hijackings, the collapse of the towers, the emergency responses, and the recovery efforts in the rubble of Ground Zero. With so many displays, it was impossible to see everything.  

The main historical exhibition, consisting of three parts, depicted an almost minute-by-minute timeline of events on 9/11 and featured quotes and recordings from people in the towers and in the planes.

A cacophony of sights and sounds bombarded visitors: blaring sirens, people running, responder calls, frantic street noise, and snippets of eyewitness accounts filled the air.

“The most memorable part was the phone messages from people in the second tower thinking they were safe,” says Lois Lang. “But the people in the towers weren’t the only victims. The planes were all full of real people.”

Messages from passengers on Flight 93 were especially moving for her husband Joe. 

Via tape recordings of passengers’ phone calls and translations of hijackers’ cockpit conversations, a computer screen in a small room off the main exhibit space presented the sequence of events aboard that flight. 

The last quote shown was a hijacker’s unforgettable command: “Take it down.” 

The room had been exceptionally quiet throughout the presentation, but the silence deepened as the quote disappeared. It was as if events were unfolding again in real time.

This was Julia and William Strimel’s first trip to the site. Julia was most affected by the wall of faces of those who perished in both the 1993 and 2001 attacks.

For William, “I found myself thinking what if I’d been in one of the towers. How would I have gotten out? I wouldn’t.”

Observing resilience

Rudy Stroh had visited Ground Zero shortly after 9/11 and hadn’t returned until this trip. He was eager to see One World Observatory. 

For him as for many people, the observatory’s completion within the soaring 1,776-foot tower, the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, celebrates America’s resilience and Ground Zero’s resurrection, a fitting counterpoint to 9/11. 

The 60-second elevator ride to the observatory is a trip in itself.

As the elevator rises to the 102nd floor, its walls display an ever-changing view of New York City’s skyline that covers nearly four centuries. 

When you disembark, the view encompasses today’s skyline, Liberty and Ellis Islands, and far beyond in every direction. 

Identifying buildings from such a height became the trivia game of the day. And visitors got a front-row seat to the evening’s weather as they watched a rain front amble toward Manhattan.

At tour’s end, residents boarded the waiting Ann’s Choice bus.

Next stop was a convivial meal at Mastoris, a popular dinner destination in New Jersey for Trips and Travel excursions. Then home again, safe and sound, at Ann’s Choice.