The Garden of Reflection: A Local 9/11 Memorial For A National Tragedy

The Garden of Reflection: A Local 9/11 Memorial For A National Tragedy

Although everyone associates New York City with the tragic events of 9/11, that day affected other people near and far.  There are  the obvious consequences such as the tightening of airline security and the wars to eradicate the Taliban. Less known is the fact that some of the victims came from 2 hours away where they lived in the rural beauty of beautiful Bucks County Pennsylvania.  Although a small percentage of the victims, they were a large part of the local community.  The Garden of Reflection 9-11 Memorial in Lower Makefield, Bucks County is the official memorial of the State of Pennsylvania for the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The Garden of Reflection 9/11 Memorial in Bucks County Pennsylvania

The Garden of Reflection is a 9/11 Memorial located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in remembrance of the Pennsylvania victims of the World Trade Centre attacks.

The Architecture of the Garden of Reflection

The architect who created the Garden of Reflection is from nearby Yardley in Bucks County.  The memorial’s beauty lies in its simplicity.

The Garden of Reflection 9/11 Memorial in Bucks County

An explanation of the tragedy for future generations.

The Garden of Reflection starts with a tear-shaped fore-court with a fragments from the World Trade Centre steel.

The Garden of Reflection 9/11 Memorial in Bucks County

A piece of steel from the World Trade Centre at the Garden of Reflection

The Garden of Reflection 9/11 Memorial in Bucks County

A piece of the steel from the twin towers decorated with tributes.

Then it leads along a remembrance walk which includes a glass plaque with the name of all the victims engraved upon it.  The ripple effect of the planting symbolises the ripple effects of that day on so many people and places.

The Garden of Reflection 9/11 Memorial in Bucks County

Water ripples from the gentle fountains

At the centre of the Memorial are two fountains representing the twin towers.  It is surrounded by a plaque memorialising the names of the 18 Bucks County victims.

The Garden of Reflection 9/11 Memorial in Bucks County

The names of the victims are etched onto glass.

The landscaping reflects maple trees and redbud trees representing the victims from both Bucks County and Pennsylvania.  Surrounding the fountains are 42 luminaries representing the 42 children from Pennsylvania who lost parents in the tragedy.  As befitting a place of reflection, beautiful steel benches are scattered throughout the landscaping.

The Garden of Reflection 9/11 Memorial in Bucks County

An aerial view of the fountains shows off the landscaping well.

The Garden’s Location

Bucks County is one of the original three counties set up by William Penn in 1682 when he established Pennsylvania.  He named it after his own home county in England, Buckinghamshire.  Pennsbury Manor in Bucks County was Penn’s country estate.  Clearly the man went around naming things after himself and things close to his heart!

The Garden of Reflection 9-11 Memorial honors all 2,973 of the dead, and especially the 9 locals from Lower Makefield and the 18 people from Bucks County, Pennsylvania who died on that day.  The victims were a cross-section of the people who perished – two people on the flights (including the captain of United Airlines Flight 175) and others who worked in the Twin Towers – male and female, young and old.

The Garden of Reflection 9/11 Memorial in Bucks County

The police and firefighters rewrote the definition of courage and heroism on that day.

Although not located in the traditional tri-state commuter states of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, there are people who commute into Manhattan for work from Bucks County. My brother’s commute into Manhattan takes him a little over an hour each way on the express train. The gleaming towers of Manhattan have an inexorable pull if you work in anything remotely finance-related.  Moreover, many New Yorkers have their weekend homes in Bucks County because of its bucolic beauty and low taxes.

The little town of Washington Crossing is located near the Garden of Reflection. Every Christmas Day at Washington Crossing Historic Park, locals re-enact George Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware River on the night of December 25, 1776.  The crossing secured a victory which boosted both his men’s and Congress’s morale.  The Americans had been getting hammered in the American Revolution and many of the recruits were close to given up.  Washington’s gamble to secure a victory for his troops came to symbolise both American courage and resiliency.

An Affirmation of Life

I found the Garden of Reflection 9-11 Memorial very positive in its approach which no doubt stems from its architect’s vision – “After darkness… light”.  Every time I have gone to the Garden of Reflection, I have seen children playing in the grass, people walking their dogs, couples chatting on the bench. etc.  For what could be a gloomy memorial, the use of this garden shows that its the everyday little things that are life-affirming. Terrorists have no power of the essentially positive nature of the human spirit.  How else can you explain the pioneering nature of the early settlers of the American West?

Garden of Remembrance

Robert Frost quote: In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.

Next door to the Garden of Reflection, there is a fantastic inclusive playground which is specially built to provide play opportunities for children of all abilities. I think the laughter of children echoing across the fields across to the memorial garden is a powerful symbol of hope.

In addition to the playground, there are also playing fields.  I believe a visitor centre is planned.  As with everything, money is a factor in creating and maintaining this memorial.  The local community have fundraising events to support it.

I have taken my children to visit the 9-11 Memorial and Museum in Manhattan – it is powerful and sombre, a marked contrast to the Garden of Reflection.  Of course, the national memorial would have had to remember the seriousness of the events that occurred and the lives lost on that day on that location.  Bucks County had the freedom to create a more forward-looking tribute that honors the victims yet highlights the indomitable American spirit.

The Garden of Reflection, Lower Makefield, Pennsylvania

The Garden of Reflection, a 9/11 Memorial, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Visiting The Garden of Reflection 9-11 Memorial

The Garden of Reflection 9-11 Memorial is located on Woodside Road in Lower Makefield, Pennsylvania.  It is a short 10 minutes drive from the I-95, exit 49 for Yardley/Newtown. There is plentiful parking and specific directions on the official website.  It’s a great place to stop if you are on a road trip along the East Coast.  Nearby Newtown (another 10 minutes away) has a beautifully preserved downtown with enough Colonial architecture to make you swoon (and excellent cafes and boutiques).



The Covered Bridges of Bucks County

The Covered Bridges of Bucks County

Did you know that Pennsylvania has the most covered bridges of any state?  There are 219 covered bridges left in the state.  I set out to explore some of the historic covered bridges of Bucks County in Pennsylvania courtesy of the very handy covered bridge tour put out by the county authorities.

Covered Bridges

Covered bridges became a romantic trope thanks to the wildly popular 1995 movie, The Bridges of Madison County starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood based on the novel of the same name.  Some people called them ‘kissing bridges’ because courting couples could sneak a kiss on them away from prying eyes.

The Covered Bridges of Bucks County

A more practical explanation would be that the covered part of the bridge protected the actual bridge from the elements.  Additionally, a covered bridge kept animals from spooking on the bridge when they were crossing.  Of course, covered bridges also protected people crossing from sudden storms.

Covered bridges fell out of favour when metal bridges began to be built in the mid-19th century. Now there are so few left, they are protected and rebuilt if they become damaged.

Covered Bridges of Bucks County

Bucks County in Pennsylvania still has 12 of 36 of its original covered bridges.  Not bad considering that there were about 12,000 covered bridges in the United States but only about 10% remain.

I managed to convince the kids to do a mini road trip to see three of the remaining covered bridges of Bucks County.  Yes, covered bridges are pretty but of limited interest on a sunny day to 9 year-olds.  Luckily, it was a heat wave and they were happy to drive around for a couple of hours in an air-conditioned car!

Cabin Run Bridge, built in 1871, is 82 feet long.  It crosses Cabin Run Creek which was so named because there were lots of cabins built along the creek.  (Early settlers were not noted for their originality in place names.)

The Covered Bridges of Bucks County

Cabin Run Bridge

Covered Bridges Bucks County

The inside tresses of Cabin Run covered bridge

Frankenfeld Bridge, built in 1872, is bigger at 130 feet long.  It crosses Tinicum Creek near where it merges with the Delaware River.

Covered Bridge in Bucks County Pennsylvania

Frankenfeld Covered Bridge

Erwinna Bridge is the oldest (1832) and the shortest (56 feet long).  It crosses Lodi Creek which when we saw it had pretty much dried up to nothing.

The Covered Bridges of Bucks County

Erwinna Covered Bridge

Fortunately, the countryside provided a beautiful drive as well. We stopped at farm stands and found fresh tomatoes and peaches in season. Although we didn’t run into a Clint Eastwood-type out on assignment for National Geographic, our drive was a lovely diversion in the middle of a hot summer day in Bucks County.

A barn in Bucks County

A rustic-distressed red barn

Fresh tomatoes for sale at a farmhouse in Bucks County

Fresh tomatoes for sale

A Covered Barn in Bucks County

A Covered Barn over a creek. – that’s different from the usual!

A Mansion on River Road in Pennsylvania

One of the grand historic homes along the Delaware River.

Elmo Loves You and Sesame Place

Elmo Loves You and Sesame Place

When my children were younger, they loved Elmo from the US hit children’s show, Sesame Street, with a passion that defied explanation.  They loved everything about Elmo – his pet goldfish, squeaky helium voice and limited repertoire of ways to express his love.

Sesame Place and Elmo

My parents live in Pennsylvania near Sesame Place, a theme park for younger children revolving around the Sesame Place characters.  Sesame Place has amusement park rides, a water park, song & dance shows, character parades and all the other usual stuff you find at a theme park.  Unlike many other theme parks though, even toddlers can participate in most of the rides.

Having grown up watching Sesame Street myself in the days before Elmo, I definitely have as soft spot for the show myself.  Between my nostalgia and the twins’ obsession, we were destined to visit Sesame Place.

sesame street sign

The first few times at Sesame Place were indeed a lot of fun.  The kids were delighted meeting the Sesame Street characters and with the rides.  By the time we had gone about 20 times, only the children were still in its thrall.

I feel completely qualified to dish about the top tips for making the best of a visit to Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.  I wrote a guest post on Sesame Place for Lara at Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom while she was enjoying a trip to Ireland.  Check out my post – Top Tips for Visiting Sesame Place – so you can get the most out of your trip to this theme park.


Experiencing Amish Country with Children

Experiencing Amish Country with Children

My children were fascinated with Amish country.  What do you mean no TV?!  Not even DS?!  Confusion abounded that such a world existed today and not in the time before dinosaurs (when their mother was a little girl).

With the children’s curiosity piqued, our family really enjoyed the sights of Lancaster county.  We drove through towns with colourful names like Intercourse, Bird-in-Hand, Ronks and Paradise.

While we were waiting for a buggy ride with Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Rides, the children spotted an old-fashioned candy store (conveniently located near the waiting area).

horse ride

The Lollipop Shoppe is a large purple house which allows you to pick and mix candy bought by weight.

candy jars

The driver was friendly and knowledgeable and took us on a little tour of the nearby farmland.  We saw a one-room schoolhouse which is still in use.  There is one teacher who teaches all the children together.  Amish education focuses on the traditional subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic because most of the children will remain on Amish lands and become farmers or farmers’ wives.  We also passed a mechanic shop for buggies which captured the children’s attention.  Old horseshoes are painted and handed out to tourists as souvenirs.  Of course, we bought one!!

painted horse shoes

painted horse shoes

At the farm, the horses and cows were inside the barn cooling off because, as usual on a scorching hot July day, the temperature hovered around 38 celsius.  We were told the animals are allowed outside to roam only in the evenings.  We were also shown the barn’s  cooling system which uses hydraulic power to operate large fans.

hydraulic fans

While we were visiting the farm, the milk truck came to take out all the milk which the cows had produced.

milk truck

Peppered amongst the fields which seemed to stretch for miles were the farmhouses and silos.


The Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord was recommended for lunch.  Its owned by the Smucker family who have had their homestead across the street since 1911.  Great Grandpa Smucker operated a coach stop for the early Conestoga Wagon travellers heading west.  Can you imagine loading up all your belongings in one of these wagons and heading off with your family into (probably hostile) parts unknown?  Those early pioneers had tremendous amounts of courage.

conestoga wagon

Many of the  travellers couldn’t read but they recognised the tavern sign of a hand holding a bird.  After travelling for miles of hostile territory, the sign must have been more than welcome.

bird in hand symbol

The food at the restaurant was generally pretty good.  My kids had hot dogs (of course).  We tried out some of the Amish food which involved meatloaf, pork meatballs and delicious apple sauce.  The recipes are supposed to have been handed down in the Smucker family.

Our search for a covered bridge proved futile.  The one we wanted to see had been blown down in a storm and was being reconstructed.  I suggest going to the Visitors Center before you get lost and waste half the day (Ahem).

The Bird-in-Hand Farmers Market is open Wednesday through Saturday for traditional Amish giftware such as quilts and food.  Kitchen Kettle Village is a much larger shopping complex with similar items.  I found their woodwork beautiful and bought a couple of hand-crafted items.

wood sign

After all that educational sight-seeing, our children deserved some down time.  The Dutch Country Wonderland was a terrific playground for them.  Although expensive (but not more so than other theme parks), the park was not as crowded as other parks.  The waiting times were reasonable for young children and the area small enough to keep an eye on them.  Many of the rides are geared for the younger child and I think tweens and older would find it a bit tame.  The park has many different parts –  usual theme park rides, a water park and a mini-golf area.

[youtube=] We had a great time in Lancaster county! There’s plenty to keep the children amused – we only had a couple of days but you could easily spend a few days here.

Roadtrip USA:  The Pennsylvania Dutch Countryside

Roadtrip USA: The Pennsylvania Dutch Countryside

Before he met me, Mr. N and his best friend always did a yearly road trip in the United States.  We’ve reinstated that tradition with the children in the last couple of years.  This summer we are driving up the East Coast from Pennsylvania where my family lives through New York, Connecticut. Rhode Island and ending up at our summer home in Massachusetts.

In Pennsylvania, we took the children to Lancaster County which has the oldest and largest settlement of Amish people in the country.  The Amish arrived in Lancaster County in the 1720’s escaping persecution for their conservative Christian beliefs in Europe.  To this day, they prefer living a simple life foregoing modern conveniences such as cars and electricity.   Approximately 30,000 Amish live in Lancaster County today.

Amish farm

Amish farm

The family is the most important social unit for the Amish.  Families tend to be large and it’s not uncommon to have 7-10 children.

typical home - laundry on the line and a buggy outside the garage

typical home – laundry on the line and a buggy outside the garage

The Amish separate themselves from the “English” (a term for any non-Amish) by their mode of dress.  The men wear dark suits, suspenders, shoes and straw hats.  The women wear modest, long dresses, with caps and aprons.  Their hair is pinned back under their caps.

The Amish speak a dialect of German, called Pennsylvania Dutch, amongst themselves.  This language acts further to separate themselves from the English.  The novels I found below were in English.

Amish women love romance too!

Amish women love romance too!

The Amish travel mainly by horse and buggy.  They are permitted to accept rides in cars from non-Amish which is helpful in long-distance transportation.

Child peeking out from a buggy being driven by his mother

Child peeking out from a buggy being driven by his mother

The horse and buggies also follow traffic rules applicable to cars.

parked buggies

The Amish are famous for their quilts which is considered a recreational, communal activity for women.

beautiful hand-made quilt

beautiful hand-made quilt

For the Amish, the word “progress” does not automatically connote something better.  They are pretty happy with their simple way of life.  Anachronisms, however, have crept into their belief system because they are part of the American way of life by necessity.  For example, the Amish need to sell their goods and be part of the national economy.  Therefore, they need to use transportation and telephones.  (Similar to transportation, the Amish are allowed to use telephones but are not permitted to own them. )  They are not part of the English world yet they are not apart.

signs advertising local produce

signs advertising local produce