Inaugural NWLB Caregiver retreat to NYC!
On December 6-7, 2017, NWLB sponsored a group of caregivers for a trip during the holidays to New York City. Melissa Meadows, a NWLB volunteer and the wife of an injured Army veteran, wrote about her experience on this new NWLB adventure. While only a few of us attended this first “trial” run, it was an amazingly fun, entertaining and exciting time. We met new people, we made new friends, we saw an amazing show, ate great food, wept at the 9/11 memorial & paid our respects and saw some NYC sights. Heck, we even saw the Rockefeller Square Christmas tree in the pouring rain (people were still ice skating, by the way). All in all it was a phenomenally busy and memorable 2 days that I really hope we can do every year!!!
Our trip began and ended with a train ride. This allowed / prompted time to get to know your seat mate. I loved it! In addition to the no fuss no muss travel into the city (and no parking issues), it provided all of us the chance to relax, get to know each other and get excited about the upcoming 2 days. Going in to the city was all giddy girl stuff and snacks, coming back we were a completely different lot of ladies. Our return trip was a welcome rest point after an incredibly busy 2 days, but also a time to reflect and cement our new friendships. Additionally, on our return trip, we were extremely grateful to have Officer Tara Bond as one of our group, as our train was halted for a couple hours and tempers were flaring due to a fatality on the tracks ahead of us. One Caregiver specifically told me “I am so glad Tara was on the train with us, I would have been really scared if she wasn’t.” And that is not the first time Tara’s presence was greatly appreciated, beyond her winning personality and great smile! More than once her overall presence and people skills saved our group from situations as simple as an annoyingly persistent panhandler to an actual group of guys following us and harassing one of the Caregivers. She is amazing and one of my friends and heroes now!
But on to the pleasant stuff! We got to NY, and man did we all want to shop! We also kind of wanted to eat. We did a little of both, of course, but really wanted more (we ARE in NYC, after all). We still needed to get ready and go see our Rockettes Christmas Spectacular, too. SOOO many wants and so little time! Of course, it started to rain and the Uber wouldn’t even pick us up (taxis for me in NYC from now on!) We started hoofing it to the show, realized it was a little far for some of our ladies and they got to ride in a bicycle taxi while the rest of us hot footed it to the theater – we made it just in time! And what a fantastic show!!!! I felt like a little girl, all excited, clapping, trying to see it all. It was simply a decadent treat for the eyes, and I couldn’t get enough! After the show we got a bit of schedule with a well meaning Edith and (not)Archie Bunker and photo ops – but we did get some good pictures! Then off to see the Rockefeller Tree (how could we not???). Naturally, it decides to downpour then, but we slogged on and got to see that tree (from Tara’s home town, by the way) and the few die hard ice skaters. We tried desperately to get dinner in the area but we weren’t able to get a table (it’s a very busy time of year by the Rockefeller Center, reservations are strongly recommended, and well in advance). We ultimately decide to eat near the hotel, but now we can’t catch a cab, so rickshaw and hoofing it it is, again! We walkers didn’t mind at all, it was a scenic walk with some cool sight to see – and a Christmas shop village we didn’t have time to stop for earlier was closed but still beautiful. We finally got to eat and the food was great, but the company was even greater!!! After dinner we returned to the hotel where I instigated a late night stroll to Times Square – how often do you get to see THAT at night??? Thankfully the rain had stopped, it wasn’t freezing and we had Tara with us! I bought some roasted chestnuts and we all had a good laugh over those interesting globs, and we had a good laugh when the candy store we almost ran to turned out the be the only store of it’s kind in the U.S. … for a Japanese emoticon app and all it’s emoji characters! Resisting the urge to follow the Unicorn (literally a person in fuzzy Unicorn pajamas and his 2 animal dressed friends), we returned to our hotel to collapse exhausted in our beds. What. A. Day.
Day 2 dawned bright and freeeeezing. Kathy and I enjoyed breakfast while the others enjoyed sleeping a bit longer (and Lizz dried my boots). Then we all rushed around packing and stuffing our bags in Tara’s room, since she couldn’t go to the 9/11 Museum with her weapon (we REALLY missed her, too). Getting a cab was essential at this point, since Manhattan and the Memorial were 15 miles away. That proved to be another challenge. We started with two, got confused who was riding where, how much room, etc and wound up over stuffed in laps in one, but we got there! We hustled and JUST made the second group of our tour of the 9/11 Museum. All I can say is it is a sobering and moving tour, especially when you see it is built surrounding the “footprint” of one of the World Trade Center buildings and you see the crumpled fire trucks and the freedom staircase with your own eyes… Then you learn there are thousands of unidentified victims remains being studied, working to be identified, just on the other side of the wall of beautiful blue tiles. Just wow. More goosebumps and the sting of tears. Once our tour was done we all wished we had time to roam on our own, reflect some and shop in the gift shop, but we were off to our next tour of the actual Memorial. Did you know that they put a white rose in the names of those who would be celebrating a birthday on that day? Did you know ONE of the decorative trees survived, barely, and they nursed it back to health AND they have cloned it and transplanted original at the Memorial. You can see it’s scars. I touched it. We all cried some and we wished desperately it wasn’t freezing out and we had more time, but off to our next reservation and a spectacular view of the entire city!!! HOLY COW!!!! What a view!!!! If you EVER have the chance to view NYC from the top of the tallest building in the country, do it. The ride up One World Trade Center is an experience all on it’s own, a mini documentary, really, and so cool! Then the actual view. OMG, I could spend the entire day there!!! Sadly, we couldn’t, BUT! We did get to have an amazingly delicious lunch at the ultra exclusive ONE restaurant, with an equally amazing and breathtaking view. What a once in a lifetime kind of treat! Sadly, all good things come to an end, and delicious meals with excellent company are no exception, and we had to depart. We played squeezy people back to the hotel, gathered our much missed Tara and belongings and headed to the train station for the trip home. To say we were all tired would be an understatement as we collapsed into our train seats, but it was with a happy sort of tired camaraderie born from adventures shared and new friendships. It was an amazing time, and an experience I none of us never would have been able to have on our own. Thank you No Warrior Left Behind!!!
Posted on January 31, 2018 by Christina Powell Direct Outreach, Special Operations