As a mom, I highly encourage you to travel alone with your 16 year old son. I'm being totally serious......we even shared a bathroom! While our weekend in New York City was filled with fun and laughs, a lot of walking and some serious people watching; we had one rather poignant and memorable day where our emotions rode quite a roller coaster. This was our schedule: 9/11 Memorial Gardens, 9/11 Memorial Museum, One World Observatory, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I don't think I did that on purpose or thought about the significance of putting these all together on the same day.
Everyone should take their teenager to the 9/11 Museum, especially if they are under the age of 20 and therefore were
not born yet. I don't recommend taking younger ones if you can help it, but with the right age group, it will be heart changing for you both. I learned a few lessons on humanity and how we perceive things by going with him. First, to him, it’s history. Like what WW2 museums or Vietnam memorials are to me. While I respect and have some understanding of what must have happened, not having lived it leaves me lacking a true appreciation. As we walked through the museum, he asked questions, he read everything, but I remembered where I was, I watched the news clips live they were replaying, I stood in disbelief. For me, it's real, for him, simply history. And it gave me a new perspective on "history", because what history is for each of us, was real life for someone else.
What was really amazing about walking through this time capsule with him is the conversations it sparked. We sat on a bench, surrounded by bent steel, photos of those lost and the sounds of the day all around us and talked.
I felt nauseous most of the time and I hoped that history never ever repeats itself in his lifetime. I hope he can continue to respect and appreciate without ever knowing what it's like to live it. We talked about what our species is capable of. We took one picture.
We didn’t feel right taking pictures or selfies there. We don't need them anyway. I can see every corner of that museum in my head. It took us a long time to walk the museum not only because we were reading and taking everything in but because we would find a place to sit and just talk for a while. We needed the breaks, it became hard to take. I wanted to stop and exit but you force yourself to continue reading, looking at pictures, looking at those around you taking it in.
I had to buy the tickets for the new One World Trade Center to go to the top. We needed it. To be lifted and uplifted on that elevator ride and see the hope and resilience it represented. He was in awe.
The rest of the day was spent on Liberty and Ellis Islands. Where we talked more about our rights and what that means. We looked back at the city from the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. We talked about intent and interpretation of things written over 240 years ago. About all the people it took since then to fight to make the phrase "All men are created equal" mean something a lot different than they probably expected it to mean back then.
I'm not sure what I expected out of this weekend getaway with my son, but what came out of it was a deeper appreciation for who he is, who I am, and honestly, for my country and our history, good and bad. It made me proud, he made me proud. We had a lot of silliness, amazing pizza, gelato worth standing in line for and buckets of laughter mixed in. I highly encourage you to travel alone with your teenager, I also encourage you to choose a spot for relaxation and fun, but one where you both walk away changed, better, and more human together.