I’m mining the catalog. When you think about it I have quite a memory bank of experiences. I have seen much. There are many stories that will never be told. Too little time. Not enough interest. Resigned? Philosophical?
There are many wishes left behind. There were many roads not taken. There were roads I wish… And for all of that I have no, well, a few regrets. But few. I have seen and photographed much. And the road is still stretching before me.
Present – on that day
World Trade Center 2000, the millennium, we (Lisa and I) visited the Battery and went to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We saw the names of our forebears who came to this country as immigrants.
2001, a crystal clear blue sky autumn day, 9/11 stands out so clearly. This is the view (my pictures) from my kitchen window. Yeah, I was close, not quite there, but close. The images are searing. When the first tower fell I was on the phone with Vicki. She told me, what my own eyes could not believe. The first tower had collapsed. From this perspective the towers appear next to each other and I thought the flames had jumped across from one building to the other. I could not fathom another plane hitting the other tower. I was fully confident in NYFD to put out a fire. I had seen them do it with my own eyes before. The towers were shrouded in smoke and steam from the dousing water and would reappear when the smoke clears. i waited in vain all day. The smoke never cleared and the buildings were gone – forever.
Twenty years later, I still have a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach thinking of the profound loss. Another generation has grown up to see the pictures, and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We extracted a pound political pound of flesh for the heinous damage. Bin Laden died. Little has changed. The world is not a better place. It is not safer. Extremism, especially in politics is worse. We are less united. And, we are still dumb. The recent drone attack in retaliation for suicide bombing at the Afghan airport appears to have hit bogus terrorists. Pound the shit out of something to make us feel strong! History repeats. Will we ever learn? Lie to me, baby – again. I take no pride in saying I was “there.”
Sandy Hook, NJ – revisited
It’s a New Jersey beach just south of New York City. It’s within sight of the city though it takes quite a bit of time to get there. It’s a clothing optional beach. That would be euphemism for naked. So, many people do. I knew it as a gay haven. But alas, after these many years I must apologize to Charlie. We flew over the beach in his helicopter and he was delighted to surprise me. I wasn’t (surprised). And furthermore, I pointed out that it was all guys who were waving up at the helicopter overhead. He immediately steered the ship away. He and I are not gay buddies. But my apologies. It seems that there were mixed couples. It took me a long time to get back to the old slides. I wonder if it’s still clothing optional? Sadly, the WTC is no longer there.
First time for me… We were in Liberty St Park attending a wedding. The venue was chosen for its view of lower Manhattan. There! The World Trade Center – aka – Freedom Tower. Funny, it never dawned on me till Ginny lamented the loss of the original twin towers in the picture, there’s no emotion in this image for me. It’s not the perspective I had when the towers fell on that fateful autumn day. Not the same. This view did not evoke an emotional response in me. I suppose over time the emotional impact of 9/11 will diminish. No, it was just a different point of view on this evening.
By next 9/11, I won’t remember these photos. But they are spooky symbolic. Recently, in the fog the tower of the new WTC – Freedom tower – poked through the mist. One could make a case that the old tower is there somewhere…. I wish. Time passes. The wounds remain fresh. An empty ache makes me recall it like yesterday. As the years pass, many find the wound fades. I wish, but no.
I know someone…
… who knows someone. You know? Six degrees of separation. Well, Mother Theresa is a saint now. She was alive during my time on earth. I am used to thinking that saints were all made before I was born. So there are no new ones. There are a lot of saints. And heaven help your “sainted mother.” But really, everyone has been all agog over Saint Theresa. A saint must perform two miracles. I thought three; I was wrong. It’s hard enough to do two. 1. She made a brain tumor go away. 2. She made a brain infection disappear. Neat! Neurosurgery! Whoa!? Really? I do not know the case nor the circumstance. The church has ruled. It’s a miracle! (Both!)
It’s all good with me. I thought that it’s easier to turn loaves into fish…or whatever. But the miracle for me is that I know someone who actually touched her while she was alive. And she has a relic. That would be real live DNA – a body part (gross) or nail clipping or hair or… I asked. Ginny confirmed. But she can’t find it! But I know she never throws anything away. So it’s around. Things go missing… they don’t know where Kennedy’s brain is. By the grace of god I do not know anyone who died in the WTC on 9/11. But I know people who knew people. That is too close.
There are times I am obtuse. I’m told. So it must be so. That mosque is in Jeddah and quite well known. Jules is in the foreground. We were happily wandering and taking pictures. A large group of Indonesians were organizing a group photo. Some kids were playing soccer nearby. Then, she saw the sign. “No photography!” Who knew? This is the site where they execute sentences – as in “beheading.” No need to lose your head? Stop taking pictures.
Call it what you will, the site is still the World Trade Center to me. This was my first and maybe last visit (for a long time) to the memorial fountain. It is open now. You can walk right up. It had just rained. Appropriate symbolism for tears and hope with blue sky in abundance. And I took the opportunity to use the reflection to mirror tower two, which will never be. There were twin towers once.
The names are there. The hole is symbolic. There is the noise of water but there is also a silence offered by the tall buildings that surround the site and it makes a hum and roar that drowns voices. It is not the reverent silence of the forest but of a city that continues and heals. The scar remains.
I think of Pearl Harbor and WW II. In time folks who were here will be gone and memory will fade. Meanwhile this fountain endures. The city is never truly silent. Neither too will memory every fade completely. I wonder if there can ever really be closure.
WTC one or Freedom Tower is done. It is finally topped and there is no more construction on the outside. A few years back they lit the inside with construction lights in red white and blue.
There is still a feeling of unfinished business as surrounding buildings are completed. There is still a traffic snarl. Business is busy. Plenty of tourists crowd the street. The cross is made of the wreckage and ruin. It’s symbolic defiance of terrorism. It’s a cross and that opens a host of thoughtful speculation. We are a land of many cultures and religion. But…
It’s open to the public. I haven’t been there yet. Once again there is something of historical significance to have a shot while the construction is still in progress. This is a view that won’t be repeated. I watched the dedication on TV at the 10th year anniversary – James Taylor, You Can Close Your Eyes and Paul Simon, Sounds of Silence. It was pretty powerful stuff.
World Trade Center, Freedom Tower
The recent news is that the tower is topped. They have positioned the antenna and will complete the outer structure soon. I’m glad to have an opportunity to get these shots. They will be unique, a one of kind memory. From here on you can only get shots of the completed building.
And when you happen to be traveling without a camera, an iPhone at least gets you a shot.
World Trade Center 9/11
Everyone can remember where they were on 9/11. It was my wedding anniversary. It was just after 9AM and I saw smoke from the kitchen window. There’s so much smoke that I figured there was a big fire in midtown. From my rooftop, the photos were unbelievable. Vicki, my wife’s cousin, called to tell me a jet had struck the tower. With my back turned to speak to her, I missed the first tower fall. And, incredibly, I missed the second one fall. In fact when the second tower was struck, I saw the flames shoot out as though the fire had jumped/spread from one building to the other. Of course, I soon realized that the towers are separated by considerable distance and that this was improbable. After both buildings collapsed, there was thick gray and white smoke that lingered. My mind couldn’t grasp that the buildings of that size and bulk had fallen to the ground. I had seen NYFD in action and they put out fires quickly and efficiently. Surely when the smoke cleared, I expected to see the buildings once again. I just knew that the news reporters couldn’t see the building for the smoke. All day, I peered and waited for the smoke to clear. Sadly, I was wrong. Emotionally, this scene still gets to me. David was in school at Collegiate. Lisa was in school at Columbia Grammar. Parents of the students worked at the WTC. Fortunately no one was lost. And Julia was upstate with her class and they didn’t bring her home that evening. Surreal.
Tribute in Light 9/11
The first anniversary of 9/11 saw a tribute in lights installed in one of the empty lots downtown across from the site. It was made by a series of spotlights aimed to the heavens. A few years later, Bob and Kathy were with Lisa and myself. We drove past the WTC site and looking upward saw this picture. The white dots were moving. Dust, bats, or insects, what was moving in the light? Birds. As best I can estimate, it was birds – gulls, probably not pigeons, but certainly big enough and attracted to the lights. They circled and from my vantage looked to have an upward spiral pattern. It made me think of the lost souls from that fateful day ascending to heaven. So solemn and symbolic…