This year my employers at Rayburn Tours said, “Yes, we will get you and some of the team out to New York and Washington.” This seemed too good to be true… and to some degree it was!
Myself and two colleagues from both Sales and Operations were tasked with completing the type of itinerary I would normally have written for a group to do in three or four days for each city – one and a half days in New York and one and three quarters in Washington.
With very early starts and long evenings ahead, we made our way around some of the sites in New York – ones where I need to be able to advise suitability for groups who need history curriculum value from a trip to New York. I can happily say that Ellis Island is useful for anyone exploring the history of the USA and the migrant communities that created it.
The history displays go back much further than the 1882 history of Ellis Island and would provide students with a good overview of some of the different waves of migration, the impact it had on existing communities and the prejudice and tensions that arose.
We explored tenement history and the different cultural influences that created the city of New York, and yes, there are some great sites and museums that will bring that to life! They also go a long way in helping to understand the wider theme of the creation of the US and modern America.
Part of the recce was to walk the distances as much as possible so that we could gauge accurately how far sites really are from one another, and whether or not it was best on foot or via subway.
We walked from South Ferry via Chinatown up through the Lower East side as far as the Empire State Building (that’s about half of the length of the whole of Manhattan Island), and if you were bringing a group I would certainly recommend the subway from now on!
However, the sight that really moved me, and one we made sure to take our time with, is the 9/11 Memorial. The architecture of the memorial building and the pools are simply majestic, but it’s the history and Remembrance display inside that’s truly moving. An absolute must for groups.
The story of that terrible day when approximately 2,000 innocent people were murdered by fanatical terrorists was told beautifully, respectfully and without a need to sentimentalise.
The horror of that barbaric act spoke for itself, while the individual stories of those killed, the bravery of the rescuers who tried to help (many of whom were also killed) reminded my colleagues and I that in true horror can come human strength and dignity.
Whatever your reason for visiting New York with a school, whether it be a History, Art, Culture or Business Studies trip, the 9/11 Memorial is a must. It is the simplest testament that New York is a city of strength, determination and survival.
Next stop, Washington – I can’t wait to pick out the best bits of the capital for school tours. Look out for my next blog!