I took a ride through New England this weekend for the Tour starting with the 9-11 Memorial in Westport CT. The memorial is located on the grounds of Sherwood Island State Park and overlooks Long Island Sound and on a clear day offers a view of the NYC skyline. Since it is on the grounds of a state park, a parking fee is charged during the summer. Historically this has been nominal. However, Saturday when I arrived I was told it was $13 for CT residents and $26 for out of state visitors. For some reason that just feels unseemly to charge for someone to reflect on the sacrifice made by the 153 CT residents who died in the Twin Towers. When I told the park staffer manning the entrance that I was only going in to see the memorial (there is also a swimming beach in the park) and could I just go in and I'd be out in a few minutes. To which she replied "$13". When I asked if I could just park outside the entrance and walk in she told me that parking was not permitted along the roads leading to the park. I found out later this has been instituted as a means of avoiding a court order requiring the state to provide free public access to the beaches along the Sound to the high tide mark. By making roadside parking along the access roads surrounding state parks and town beaches illegal during the summer, the state and towns can continue to charge for access despite the court ruling.
However, being the civil disobedient that I am, I bristled at the prospect of paying $2/minute for parking in a lot with no facilities (the pavilion, concessions and facilities were closed) while visiting a memorial dedicated to people who died in the opening salvo of the war on terrorism and the American way of life. So I made a U-turn and headed back down the access road. A few hundred yards away another driveway intercepts the access road. I turned the bike into the driveway and parked it on the grass. About 50 feet further down the drive is a sign prohibiting further access so I don't know where the driveway goes. Across the road from this is a signed bike path. I walked to that and followed it turning south toward the beach. A quick walk took me to the pavilion and the nearby memorial.
The memorial has a center stone flanked by two rows of stones inset into the grass. These have the names of the CT residents who died that day. When I was last there with my son a few weeks ago, many of the stones had small remembrances left on them - stones painted with hearts, shells, small engraved lockets and pocket pieces. All of these appear to have been removed. I wondered where they went and why it was necessary to take them away. They offered a touching view into the hearts of families who still remember, a link to a loved one. Now those are gone. Maybe packed into a box and stored in some state archive or attic...maybe simply disposed of. Some might say that it's necessary to remove these so the stones don't get overwhelmed by these small tokens but I would suggest that it's not likely that families will keep bringing more and more items - one or two per name is likely all that would ever be brought. After all, there are 153 names on the stones, not tens of thousands like some memorials. It just felt disrespectful and almost as if the place had been violated since my last visit.
So, if you're going, you may want to avoid the summer or go later in the evening when the beach traffic is gone and the parking collectors go home. Otherwise expect a hefty tax on remembering. And if you find out where the memory tokens are taken, let me know, I'm curious.