Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New York: September 11th - 1609, 1689, 2001


There are 365 days in a year, and each one is filled with endless events and activities, year after year. Throughout our lives some dates become more important than others. Some days witness events that connect that date over and over through centuries of time. September 11th and New York have one of those momentous connections.

Event #1: September 11, 2001, Lower Manhattan, New York
This is one of those dates that you remember exactly what you were doing when you heard the news. For me it was early in the morning. I was teaching a class to high school age students. When they came into the room that morning a few of them mentioned they had heard something about planes crashing into a building in New York; it seemed like a serious event.

I taught my class but in the back of my mind was a fear about what might be happening.  As soon as I finished, I got into my car and turned on the news. The events of the destroyed buildings and crashed planes were so unbelievable that I had a difficult time even comprehending what had happened. The terrorist attacks that had transpired in New York were beyond my understanding.

My husband called from work to see if I’d heard what was going on. He was teaching 6th grade at the time and pulled all of his students into the library to watch the live coverage of the attacks. Together they saw a plane fly into the second tower of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan; they watched in bewilderment as portions of it toppled to the ground.

Our family spent several weeks listening to NPR (National Public Radio) every chance we had to try to understand what had happened in New York, why these terrorist activities had happened and who was responsible. We silently worked on projects with our hands as our minds listened and tried to untangle the numbing events.

Event #2: September 11, 1609, Entrance of the Hudson River, New York
September 11th of 1609 goes back to a time before the Twin Towers stood in New York. Instead of terror, this day began with great hope as Henry Hudson looked up the North River (today know as the Hudson).

Previous to this date, he embarked on his third voyage to find a passage to Asia from Europe, but as his ship became encased in ice, Hudson decided to change his plans and take an entirely different route. He charted a course suggested by a fellow explorer, John Smith – yes – THE John Smith, and decided to search for a Northwest Passage instead. The Northwest Passage was believed to be a river that would go from the east coast to the west coast of North America and as he approached the North River, he felt this was the illusive passage so many explorers had been seeking.

As Hudson headed up the North River, he was optimistic that he had finally met with success but after a few weeks, Hudson realized this path was not what he had hoped for. After trading with Natives in the area he headed back to Europe.  He did not find a Northwest Passage but briefly explored the area that soon became the Dutch Colony of New Netherland and centuries later, New York.

Event #3 - September 11, 1689 Wallabout Bay, Long Island, New York
The September 11th of 1689 falls between the two previously mentioned years. It is the day that Catalina Trico died in what is Long Island, New York today; she was 84 years old. Catalina married Joris Rapalje in 1624, only a few days before they set off on a ship across the Atlantic Ocean to settle in the Dutch Colony of New Netherland. They were both religious exiles that went to the Netherlands for protection from Spain during the early 1600s. Little is known about how Catalina and Joris met but we know that Catalina’s sister was the only family at their wedding. Both Catalina and Joris were illiterate as their marriage certificate bears their signs, not their signatures.

Together they sailed across the ocean on the first ship that carried colonist headed for New Netherland. They were daring enough to start fresh in a new place they had never set foot on and willing to work hard to be successful there.  They were among the families that were placed at the far north end of the Hudson River, deep in the center of a land filled with Natives; the same river that Hudson had sailed up years before. Catalina and Joris had 11 children in New Netherland. They bought and sold land, cleared land and then cleared more land to rebuild homes and farms to raise their family on. Catalina outlived her husband Joris by 26 years. As a widow, she lived independently, raised her own garden, and even though her family was nearby, she took care of herself.

I have thought about the possible events for Catalina on September 11, 1689 many, many times during the past several months as I have attempted to pull some potential details from what that day might have been like. Had she spent the day gathering winter squash into her home with a few of her grandchildren? Had she enjoyed dinner with one of her children and their family? The interesting thing about Catalina is that she lived in New Netherland from the very first day to the very last and then a bit longer. She was on that first ship that landed before any homes were built; and she was also there on the day Peter Stuyvesant surrendered the Dutch colony to the English. She was one of the very few that saw it all!

Making Connections
All three of these events happened on the same date, in the same area, and each had an effect on New York that rippled out and changed the entire world – forever. The September 11, 2001 event took away a feeling of safety; people were hurt physically and emotionally, and there was a little less trust in the world.

September 11, 1609 eventually brought the Dutch to the area that would later become New York where they established a colony that was different from any other settlement in the New World. They brought tolerance, cooperation, and free trade to New Netherland and these ideas have become part of what New York is today.

September 11, 1689 brought the end of a life that was full of courage and determination. Catalina was one of the few that witnessed and experienced New Netherland in its entirety – every single day of it. She took a chance and changed her future because of her willingness to work hard and improve herself and the places she lived. She has over one million descendants living in the United States today.

The designer, Charles Eames, said, “Eventually everything connects - people, ideas, objects.” As I consider September 11th, and examine events that happened on that date in New York, I realize that everything does eventually connect; that a single day can link people, places, and events throughout generations. These associations send out concentric ripples that shape the course of many histories in places far from where they first began.

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