Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Encyclopedia of Me - E

E is for Eagle Rock Reservation- I was born, grew up, and until this recent move to North Carolina, lived in Essex County, New Jersey, 12 miles due west of Manhattan. The primary geologic feature of the area are the ridges that run north and south. The eastern-most ridge is called Watchung Mountain. At the top of the ridge, facing New York City, is Eagle Rock Reservation. From the Reservation there is a spectacular view across the Jersey meadows and you can see the city from the George Washington Bridge south to the Verrazano Bridge.

I suppose Eagle Rock is one of the places I will miss most. It features in my memories back as far as I can remember. Going there for picnics and to enjoy the view as a child, hanging out there as a teen with friends, eating at Highlawn Pavilion, just stopping a short while to soak up the view while driving through to a further destination, lovely walks there with The Tramp, and more recently taking visitors to see the Essex County September 11th Memorial as well as the breathtaking views of the city. I always found the panorama which includes the homes of almost 10 million people could bring me out of my insular little world of the moment and remind me of the larger world. Something going to church does for me as well. It's humbling, as well as a way to reconnect with the larger community.

The September 11th memorial is beautiful. On the fateful morning I was in my office in the center of town when we got a phone call alerting us to the first part of the disaster. We turned on CNN and watched in horror. The whole thing was made even more surreal as we had a clear view of mid-town Manhattan from my office window and from that vantage point it was a normal gorgeous autumn day. The World Trade Center site was out of view behind the trees. It was bizarre to go back and forth from the lovely view at my window to what we were seeing on the television. My boss spent the morning frantically trying to reach her son and DIL who were living and working in the city. One of my daughter's friends was on the 73rd floor of Tower One. Her story is harrowing. A friend of ours was a roommate in the Air Force with the pilot of one of the planes. Everyone knows someone who was directly affected on the day or afterwards during the rescue and clean-up effort.

After the initial rush up the mountain to outlooks like Eagle Rock, all the streets to places with a view were closed by the police for a few days. The reservation was closed for weeks. The local schools stayed open into the night waiting for parents to come home. Some were stuck in the city, trapped by checkpoints or lack of transportation. Some never came home. The event looms hugely in the collective psyche of the area. We grew up with the view of the New York skyline as a constant in our lives and then suddenly and violently it changed.

I know I'll be visiting there again.

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