When we went to Ground Zero, we were only two of many that were there on September 21st. There were people six across and dozens of rows behind us and in front of us, walking slowly on a warm day inching forward people looking in all directions and yet everyone was polite and even helpful. I commented on this to Phyllis and she had noticed the same thing.
As we reached Ground Zero I was at first mesmerized by the devastation that spread out over the sixteen acres in front of us but slowly started noticing people and posters left by people. I have already mentioned that on that day my professionalism slipped. I had a very hard time concentrating on what was happening all around me. My emotions were making me lose focus. I would see somebody and just stare at them, forgetting about the camera clutched in my hand. This did not occur when I was photographing the rubble but when I turned my attention toward the people around us.
Any photographer reading this will understand when I say there were shots not taken that I still remember so many years later. I remember an image of a simple scene of a barn that I saw as we were driving home after a long weekend photographing in Maine. Phyllis was driving and as we drove by this road, I could see this barn with great light but by the time I truly 'saw' the image, we were past it and since there was heavy traffic coming in both directions, I let it go. That was twenty years and thousands of images ago but I still remember that image not taken. On this day at Ground zero, two such instances happened.
As I was standing within a crowded area looking at the debris, I heard singing. It was faint and there was a lot of noise that day but I heard it. I turned and looked into the crowd behind me and I saw two young civilian guys standing looking at where the towers had stood, singing God Bless America. People started hearing it and like me they looked. Soon, others were singing including me. This was not a loud rousing version but quiet like a hymn. They suddenly stopped and just walked away into the crowd.
I wiped my eyes and realized I never took the picture. I had become part of the image and stopped being a photographer. That was the last time that ever happened but it was not the only image lost that day. As we were leaving and walking up a side street, I walked past a police officer who was talking to a young woman. After I was past them, I heard crying and turned to see the young woman crying pretty hard while the young officer was trying to console her. In her hand was a poster of a missing person.
You saw them all over walls and taped to poles on the streets of New York in those days. Her face was contorted with pain as tears ran down her face. I lifted the camera to my eye, focused, saw the shot, stopped then took the camera from my eye. I could not take the picture. I felt like I was intruding on this woman's grief and violating a human trust. I think it would have been a really touching picture and part of me still wishes I took it. But on this day in our history, I just couldn't.
I did photograph other people that day and here are a few of them plus other sights I saw.
Here was something that I had never seen in the US before that day but not so unusual since then; a truck parked on Broadway.
There were people trying to fix underground electrical and
plumbing problems from 9-11.
Phoenix Arizona Firefighters were being driven to Ground Zero to help in the rescue and cleanup. Look at their faces.
Military personnel were all around. Again their faces reflect all of our feelings in the aftermath.
A soldier was standing next to a light pole that someone had attached flowers and a poster announcing a prayer vigil.
This next image actually made me feel good, some people were getting back to business. This shows a young girl helping her parents sell souvenirs. Even this cute young child had no smiles that day!
The people of New York were battered but not broken. A shout of defiance is written in the dust left by the towers' collapse.
It took too long but finally justice was served !!!!!
Crowds of people were all looking grim. I mentioned to Phyllis that we were all at a large wake and the fallen towers' rubble held the remains!!
These posters could be seen all over Manhattan. Being ten days since the collapse, they stood as a chilling reminder of the loss that day!
The media was there shooting!
The sadness could be seen on everyone's faces.
These firemen take a well deserved rest. The members of the
NYFD lost over 300 of their brothers on 9-11.
Our flag was being shown everywhere. Any other time, this would bring a smile to your face but not that day.
It was not only fire and police personnel
that served during those days!
This is a scene that you could see in any city almost any day; a city worker with a police detail but this day, it included a military guard.
Patriotism from all of our citizens.
Some images of that day!!
Of all the images I took that day, this next one is the most emotional for me. This gentlemen who was working among the rubble, helping with the cleanup and hoping to find survivors, had just come back from a shift and was resting. Look at the haunted look in his eyes! I can't even guess what he had seen in his time out there and how many hours he had been working in the past week.
Look at the message written in the dust!