Tuesday, May 16, 2017

West Point Reunion

This year was Bill's 35th class reunion at West Point.  Hard to believe that many years have passed.  This reunion was so different than the ones we have been to before.  All the past ones have been in the fall and included parades and going to football games.  This one was in the spring.  There was a lacrosse game but we went into NYC instead of going to that.  We took a friend with us.  Our friend, Cindy, was a teenager at West Point when her dad taught there and when she met and fenced with Bill.  The fencing team considered her their little sister.  After we got back from our last reunion, she expressed a desire to go so we offered to take her this time.  The reunion activities were all at West Point and mostly at The Thayer this year--so no staying in New Jersey and busing to West Point every day.  We didn't stay at The Thayer and there were pluses and misses to staying off post but overall, it wasn't a bad thing--just not as much "forced" time with everyone on the bus, hotel and at West Point.  I don't mean forced in a bad way--just that there wasn't as much opportunity to visit this time without those forced opportunities.  It didn't help that we had to split up in three different banquet rooms so a lot of times we missed seeing people we were looking forward to saying hi to.

One of the very first things we made sure that we did was take Cindy to the house she lived at on West Point and to her middle school.  She was so excited to see the house and point out her bedroom window.  When we got to the garage, she looked at the place that her mom had hit the garage when they were there.  Her mom often told us the story when we were with her--about how the Corps of Engineers had to come fix it.  There was a brick missing in the very same spot.  Cindy got such a chuckle out of that.

We decided to get a bite of lunch in Highland Falls.  When I saw the Pied Piper Pie Shop, I knew that was the place we needed to go.  A Facebook/Digital Scrapbooking friend had gone there a couple of years ago when she was at West Point.  A friend of hers owned the shop and I vowed to look it up the next time we were there.  Cindy and Bill were good about letting me indulge--especially since Bill is on a diet and Cindy is gluten intolerant.  They were able to get salads though and I had chocolate peanut butter pie.  I wasn't passing up pie at an honest to goodness pie shop.

The first official event we went to was a Hudson River Cruise on one of the West Point boats.  We met up at South Dock to board and took a two hour cruise up river and back.  Cool seeing the view of West Point from the river.

It was our first chance to visit with old friends and I met a few new people that I had never met before.

The Thayer Hotel is a beautiful old historic hotel.  It was built 90 years ago to replace the original West Point Hotel that was built in 1829.  It was fun to see that one of the light fixtures in the lobby was actually from the old hotel.  Bill and I had stayed there once when we lived in Massachusetts and we had been there for other events in the past so I was surprised when some of our friends said that it was the first time that they had been inside it.  Cindy said she had never been there because that was date night for her parents if they went.

There is always a memorial service on Friday as well as class meetings and updates from the Superintendent, Commandant, and Dean as to what is going on at West Point now.  This year we honored thirty-one class members who have passed away--some who died as cadets and some who passed away as recently as just a few weeks ago.  It is always a nice service to remember them.

Cadet Chapel is such an impressive building.  It was completed in 1910 and has the largest pipe organ in the world.

Friday night was the big dinner night.  There wasn't a super fancy dress up night this year but this was the dressiest event of the weekend.  I was excited to wear my West Point jewelry.  Like most West Pointers, Bill wears his class ring every day.  My jewelry isn't as easy to wear so I only get it out for military or veterans events.  Bill gave me my A pin on my 39th birthday.  I didn't know what it was when I opened it so he had to explain that it was the West Point alternative to a fraternity pin.  That brought me to tears knowing that he wanted to "pin" me after all our years together.  Sherrill got me an Army button bracelet a few years ago which I was thrilled to get.  When I found out the same gal had West Point cadet bracelets as well--I knew I had to have one and I bought Maddy an Air Force bracelet too.

Bill's company-A2-was well represented this year.

Some of our closet friends are in this group.  We only get to see each other every five years but there was talk about having a company get together sometime in the next couple of years to meet up in between reunions.  We'll see but we also talked about meeting up with some friends in Florida or some of them coming up here as well.

There are also friends that weren't in company A2 but that we were stationed with that are also very dear to us.

Bright and early Saturday morning, we headed to West Point to catch the bus into New York City.

We went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.  In 2002, Bill and I were in New York for a few days before the reunion and made sure to visit Ground Zero.  Five years ago, we took a lunch cruise around Manhattan and saw the Freedom Tower in the process of being built.  This year, we returned to the site to see the transformation and pay our respects.

The memorial and museum are where the Twin Towers previously stood.  There is a forest of trees and  two pools with the names of the victims on the walls.  We found several names that had flags or flowers stuck in them.  It is a beautiful tribute to those who died.

The museum was particularly sobering.  We had a guided tour which was very interesting.  In order to maintain the quiet respect that is desired, those taking the tour get headphones and a receiver and the tour guide has a microphone so that you can hear through the headphones.  I loved that idea so much.  I often can't hear everything that a tour guide says when I am on a tour and I could hear every word.  It also allowed for wandering around a particular exhibit and still be able to hear the tour guide talking.

The guided tour takes an hour and you could spend three or four hours there easily if you wanted to see everything.  There is a large exhibit and videos as well as photos and stories about all those who died.  There were so many people there that it was hard to really see everything so Bill and I just walked through quickly to get a glimpse of it.  I think it would be a little overwhelming to actually watch everything but we had to get back to the bus so we didn't have a whole lot of time to doddle anyway.

It was a thrill to get to see the Freedom Tower up close and personal after having seen it being built from the river five years ago.  To me, it seem like a phoenix rising from the ashes.  It is built in the spot that Six World Trade Center used to be.  It would have been nice to go up to the Observation Deck to see the view from up there but I guess that just means that we need to go back sometime.

We had a few hours to kill before our tour so we went to the Oculus to see what that was all about.  It is actually a PATH train station and links up with several subway stations and shopping malls.  We had a little snack at a coffee shop next to the train entrance and did some people watching for a bit there.  Bill tells me that it is the replacement for the train station that used to be in the World Trade Center.  The architecture was so interesting and I liked how the window in the ceiling was in line with seeing the Freedom Tower.  

It was interesting to find out after we got home that the roof leaked so badly the day before we were there that they had to shut down the escalators.  No wonder they were shut down while we were there and we had to take the stairs.  It leaked the next day after we were there too.  Hopefully they get that figured out.  Such a new building to have a leaky roof.

Sunday morning, we had breakfast with Fred and Mary at the hotel before we checked out.  Our flights out of Newark weren't until late afternoon so we had time to explore some more.  We didn't do our usual Friday morning walk around the Cadet Area so I suggested we go back to West Point and do that.

We actually started at Old Cadet Chapel first.  As impressive as Cadet Chapel is, I find Old Cadet Chapel charming.  It was built in 1837 and was originally near Grant Hall.  After the new Cadet Chapel was built, it was disassembled brick by brick and moved to the cemetery in 1911.

The cemetery is also a very interesting place to wander.  Bill wanted to visit the graves of a couple of friends who died as cadets while we were there.

It was interesting and sad to learn that our access to the Cadet Area is restricted now.  Since we were there as alumni, our name tags did allow us to walk around but we are no longer allowed to go inside Washington Hall Mess Hall, the barracks or academic building.  They are tightening security to protect the cadets from possible attacks.  If we want to go outside of a reunion, we have to arrange a tour in advance and must have an actual graduate as part of the tour group.  The Mess Hall in particular is so impressive and beautiful on the inside, it was disappointing that we didn't get to see it although I understand the need to keep the cadets safe given the attacks that have taken place in other parts of the country and world.

The gothic style of the buildings is so unique and cool to see.

There are statues and memorials just about everywhere you go at West Point.  Here are a few of my favorites.  I didn't take as many statue photos this trip.

This was actually the second reunion that we got to go see the new library.  But it too is beautiful with amazing view of the Hudson River and The Plain.  So happy they designed it to blend in with the architecture of the rest of the campus.

We made sure that Cindy got to see some of the places that she wanted to see like the building that her dad taught in and the new library.  She also was anxious to see the kneelers in the chapel after the memorial service to see if they were the same ones that she remembered being worked on when she lived there and was thrilled to find that they were.

As usual, it was a great time seeing Bill's alma mater and seeing old friends.  Already looking forward to 2022 for the next reunion.

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