I originally wrote this article in May 2014, the day after visiting the 911 Memorial while still under construction. The museum is now finished, and security is a bit different than it was then.
We waited in line, checking pockets, removing belts and placing all objects in a container for scanning. The room was full of chatter as we walked through the gates. Assembling ourselves back together, I realized one of the sacrifices we now all make. Part of the price of feeling secure is losing a little freedom. That was when I decided to shoot something unique, something more than just a postcard or pictorial of this 9/11 monument. I wanted some-thing that depicted the emotion I felt while standing on this ground sanctified by so many. I wanted to show the emotion that those people must have felt that terrible day. I created the portfolio, Remembering 9/11.
For my age group, the attacks of 9/11 were the overbearing loss of life that we viewed as it happened in real time. I remember other events as a child and many more from history lessons with wasteful loss of life, but none I experienced this closely. Visiting those historical sites is moving, but nothing evokes my emotion like 9/11. I now understand my parents statement, “I remember where I was and what I was doing when Kennedy was shot…” This site carries a somber meaning to me both as a human being and a citizen of this country.
As we entered the memorial, I noticed how quiet it was. Surveying the area, I found a rose set in someone’s name and made the image permanent. Using a Leica M9, I felt much less intrusive because it was small, fitting well inside my hands. I quickly felt the sadness and respect that was present.
I started taking images of the two large fountains. Four sided cubes with water falling from every side to a large square drain in the middle, these occupied the foundations of the former Twin Towers. The black sides of the fountains were stark in the shade of the tall office building across the street. Shutting my eyes, I could hear the white noise resulting from the falling water. I imagined the tears of those trapped in the top floors of the Twin Towers.
After clicking a few quick images of the hole in the center of the drain, I pulled the focus back to the reflections of the skyline contained in the water at the top. This was the skyline that now stood watch over the Tower memorial.
After pausing, I pulled the focus back even more to capture the names that were engraved in the stone surrounding each fountain. As the Vietnam Memorial came to mind in Washington, DC, I decided I liked the names surrounding the fountain. It was almost like a gathering place for their memories. The deep etching would stand the test of time and later generations would be able to see and hear the stories of that day.
Reviewing the images, a realization came that I needed to show the intimate connection of the monuments and the people there. I wanted to include enough of the people present, but not take away from the focal point of the memories. The images had to speak of the silence all around. I came back to that somber feeling when I first entered. I thought again about the people at the tops of the towers, waiting for help that could not come. Some, I imagined, were crying as they determined how to meet their fate. I could picture them looking down the building towards the ground but not being able to see through the smoke. I decided to represent the tear-filled eyes through the fountains. I decided to represent the smoke through the sharp shadows of this sunny day.