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June 20, 2010 / howardmestas

Wall Street, Colonial New York

Ground Zero in background of St Paul's Chapel Cemetery

A WALKING TOUR TO REMEMBER

Today was our walking tour of Wall Street and Colonial New York with Ed O’Donnell of Holy Cross University.  Our walk started with a serene eye opener when we visited a burial ground where the remains of close to 500 hundred African Slaves were interred.  Appropriately a memorial honoring their tragic lives is in place, but not until over 300 years and 17 feet of earth later.  History is only recently revealing that colonial New York had the largest slave population if the original 13 for most of the17th and 18th centuries before finally relinquishing that disgusting statistic to some of the southern colonies.  All told, hidden in the ground were some 20,000 souls without markers to show even the slightest appreciation of their limitless sacrifices, three thousand miles away from their homeland.  To illustrate American hypocrisy, only a short distance away were two colonial churches encircled with dignified tombstones, many for the very people who owned the slaves.  Go figure.

Soon we were learning about the history of City Hall and how it became the cash cow

Bomb Sniffing Dog

for Boss Tweed’s infamous Tammany Hall scam; ironically the same building today houses the NYC public schools office.  As

Planters that are really street barriers

 bad as Tweed’s corruption was (and it was shocking) it paled in comparison to the current shenanigans of modern day Wall Street, just a few blocks down the street.  It was at this point in our walk where O’Donnell was like a walking kiosk of information, identifying locations of important buildings and events in early Manhattan.  Regrettably, unlike Boston, New York did not preserve its colonial landmarks choosing instead to build over the sites for commercial interests.  We saw where the Sons of Liberty protested the Stamp Act and where the colonial militia drilled, and where Hamilton and Jefferson walked while agreeing to a compromise that would move the nation’s capital from New York City to the south in exchange for Hamilton’s financial plan.  O’Donnell paused for a moment and pointed to a patch of blue sky between two

Twin Towers once occupied this open space

 buildings and told us that before September 11, 2001 The World Trade Center Towers would have occupied that open space.  Soon the past and the present would collide as we walked toward St. Paul’s Chapel, Manhattan’s oldest public building in continuous use, surrounded by headstones from the 18th Century.  It was here where Washington attended services on the day of his first inauguration, and where firefighters rested after the 911 attacks.  Inside was an emotional journey and I became choked up when I saw the fireman badge tribute to the hundreds of dead heroes who perished when the Twin Towers collapsed.  It’s amazing to think that this building (and the tombstones) remained

Engine 10 Still Going

standing on that tragic day, and remarkable to see American resilience as construction of the new Freedom Towers is ongoing.  Our walk continued to Bowling Green and the Battery, and eventually through the financial district.  The police presence throughout the entire downtown area was incredible, but then one has to remember that Manhattan is the number one terrorist target in the world.  Scattered along every street are the ubiquitous street barriers, some even disguised as planter boxes; all placed in locations that would

No Bull!

 prevent any idiot from driving a truck bomb in an attempt to blow up a building.  Eventually, we reached a corner of great significance, a place where Washington was sworn in to become the first President, a scene very prominent in the HBO miniseries, John Adams.  Sadly all that remains is the stone that Washington stood upon during the ceremony.   A statue of the President gazes about fifty yards down the street to the New York Stock Exchange; you have to wonder about what he would he say about Manhattan and the entire country if he were to able return for just a moment.  No doubt he would be overwhelmed, but would he be happy or sad?

Washington overlooking NY Stock Exchange

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