Climbing the Statue of Liberty and then reaching the 9/11 Memorial is a tall order for any sightseer, but going via the wheel-chair accessible route is even more so.
But somehow, on a brilliantly sunny, calm and cool day in early November, everything just fell into place, and we did just that.
Carrie, our beloved nanny and Godmother to our youngest child, arrived into JFK from Portland, Oregon on November 4, accompanied by her two best childhood friends, Buffy and Brooke. Our hello was one long good hug and cry before we packed up their luggage and a red motorized scooter into the car and drove out to Montauk for our first adventure. That morning, we moved hand-in-hand out into the big powerful cold waves.
Carrie was game. And I was amazed by her. She submerged in that salty healing 56 degree ocean and it caught her breath and she sputtered, then laughed. Then she smiled to the sky as she stood in wet winter sand, as cold rain pelted her face. Then we all laughed as we chased rainbows all the way to the lighthouse, and felt the sun on our faces.
Then we stopped at the Camp Hero overlook where I took a photo of the cliff only to turn around and see Carrie on the ground, a victim of her condition. It was just a “dirt nap,” she joked while Buffy and Brooke stood sentry, patiently holding her as she recovered from this all too familiar unexpected fainting episode.
The scooter came on the trip because it helps Carrie move around safely. She has dysautonomia, which doesn’t make any sense at all because why would God want to give this difficult condition to someone with such a beautiful good heart. It is impossible to comprehend. But yet somehow there she is, just smiling and laughing her way through it all and so I do too. We all do.
She leads us all to a joyful place. She leads us all by example of how to keep a positive attitude in the face of hardship and unfair handouts by God. She is my soul keeper. She is more of who I want to be. She makes me want to be a better person. The next day we drove to Rye and she was able to visit our daughter, her Goddaughter.
We then woke up early the next morning to board a peak train departing Rye at 7:55am to arrive into Grand Central Station. What carried this day off so well were not only the sunshine and calm winds but the big smiles, infectious laughter, joyful attitude and positive energy of Carrie, Brooke and Buffy.
I gave guidance, as the local, but many decisions and discoveries on this adventurous day of sightseeing were made as a group. We met beautiful people like the Metro-North conductor lady who personally led us to the temporary elevator at Grand Central so that we could take the 4/5/6 subway line downtown to Battery Park. We purchased gloves and hats when we got out of the subway at the Bowling Green station, since it was pretty chilly out.
Brooke talked a lot, sharing a bounty of knowledge and opinions, while Buffy talked sparingly, but wisely. And both were clearly caretakers and givers. They were constant, hands-on overflowing bowlfuls of love, caring and kindness.What I noticed along the way on this very special day were genuine smiles from strangers, and helpful moments with Metro-North, MTA and Park Rangers—and so many, many gaps. We made a “Mind the Gap” joke, which is the warning they give you in the London underground. But it really is a monumental thing when you are relying on small scooter wheels to get you safely over it, onto the train. At one point Carrie gunned the gap in her scooter on high speed and almost took out a few unsuspecting subway riders. We laughed for the whole subway ride about that incident, somehow making friends with our near-victims.We were aware of gaps everywhere—where trains and subways meet platforms, where the ferry meets the ramp, and where the ferry ramp meets the sidewalk. Stairs were to be avoided at all costs, but sometimes we had no choice but to get a little creative and enlist the help of strangers to help carry the scooter up or down them. I saw the positive, bubbling, joyful energy of this Oregon trio soften strangers and pave the way time and again that day.
The National Park was true to their website’s claim—they really did make the entire Lady Liberty experience easily wheelchair accessible. And the crowds were small since we came so early in the day, in early November.
A highlight of the day was when we had returned to ground level,after reaching the Pedestal Level of the Statue
and had to run and scoot like crazy to catch the ferry only to miss the ferry line cutoff by 10 seconds. But then, when the park ranger saw that we had a scooter, we were moved over to another line that allowed us to board the ferry after all!
Once we got back to the ferry terminal in Battery Park, they held up the line to add extra ramps for the scooter to manage the ferry ramp on both ends. We then took a moment to feel grateful for accomplishing this special trip to Lady Liberty. We then meandered through the park and turned right to scooter along the sidewalk of the FDR to arrive at the 9/11 Memorial.
Carrie was overcome with sympathy for those lost in the tragedy and she collapsed over the side of engraved names that lined the perimeter of the black watery hole, sobbing.Carrie was very cold at that point, and so we went into the Occulus to find warmth.
We ended up at Irish American on John Street to eat and drink in spite of the flight of stairs it took to get in there. We had determination and we had Carrie. That was all we needed.
We managed the stairs with more help from strangers and got to the subway nearby, cheering when we discovered the elevator was so close-by. We had time to admire Grand Central Station’s compelling ceiling and its constellations before we boarded the 6:19pm train to Rye.It had been such an eye-opening day, so full of smiles, love and laughter. We bonded as we minded every gap and chose over and over to treasure what really matters: friendship, love, and a positive attitude. And Carrie showed us all how to handle hardship with grace, dignity and a whole lot of gorgeous giggles.