Friday, September 9, 2011

REMEMBERING 9-11 WITH WORD and IMAGES OF THE DESTRUCTION

E"Jim, a plane hit one of the trade towers in New York". That was the first words I heard about the planes hitting the towers. I was at Brandeis University in Massachusetts performing a routine audit of my staff that worked there. One of the Brandeis employees, a great guy named Joe, was walking by the area I was in. I looked up from some papers that I was writing and the first words I spoke about it were," Was it a small plane or a commercial jet?" I have no idea why I asked that. He answered that he wasn't sure because someone else told him about it. He continued walking by and I went back to writing. I remember thinking I hope it was a small plane if not a lot of people on the plane are going to die. Little did I know!! 

A short time later Joe came back and said that now a second plane had hit the other tower and that they were commercial jets. He just stopped and looked at me as if either the implications just hit him or looking for answers from me. I just said, "Terrorist?"- one word but it was said as a question. Joe shook his head and continued on his way. I needed to find out more and walked into the kitchen area. I saw a women who worked there and she asked me the same question Joe had asked. Had I heard? I replied that I had, two planes had hit the towers. She said yes and one hit the Pentagon and the White House. This last one was not true but as in cases like this there are misstatements made and then repeated. 

I knew there was a large TV up in the student lounge and started running up the staircase. When I reached the lounge it was packed with students, educators and staff standing, sitting and kneeling watching the screen. I saw that the two towers were smoking. I remember seeing a helicopter circling above the towers and I thought that they might be preparing to land on the roof to rescue some of the people. I had a vague memory of that happening during the bombing of the towers a few years before. Within minutes of watching this is what I saw.



I remember looking around at the other people watching to see if they had witnessed what I just did. In disbelief I looked around the room then back to the screen and then back around the room. What was I looking for? I have no idea. Maybe I just couldn't watch the destruction.  Looking around at the faces of these young people, some now crying, some staring at the screen mouths open, eyes wide, I found no relief from the pain and horror. It was both on the screen and in their faces. 

Suddenly something hit my knee almost buckling it. I looked down and saw a young boy wearing a Yamaka on his head. I noticed the hat because that is what I could see. He was kneeling with his head touching the floor in front of him. I could hear a low guttural moan coming from him which then broke into a painful cry. His friends ran to him, holding him trying to comfort him in their shared grief. 

Then the second tower collapsed and the horror doubled. I remember hearing estimates that as many as 10,000 people were in the towers and no one was sure how many got out!! After awhile I left the room walked outside and called Phyllis at her school. I knew she was safe but I needed to hear her voice. She told me she had watched what was happening on her janitor's TV. You could hear the same tone in her voice that I heard in everyone else's including mine; a mixture of great sadness, shock and fright. What was going on? 

I told her that I had heard the Pentagon had been hit and she said she had heard the same. I asked if they were letting the kids go home early and she said she didn't know yet. We said we would speak to each other later that day and that we loved each other and hung up. 

Brandeis University is the largest Hebrew school of its type in the US and the people were always worried about possible attacks on it. That thought went through my mind as well, I would imagine, as most others there that day.

When I reached my office, I received a call from a young women who worked for me. She was crying and telling me she had to go home because her aunt worked at the towers and she didn't know what had happened to her. She needed to be with her parents. I was one of the lucky ones because that was as close as my family and I would come to knowing someone at the towers. We found out that the young woman's aunt was lucky. Her shift wouldn't start for a few hours and she was getting out of the subway train just after both towers went down. She was safe!!

When I arrived home I put the TV on and it stayed on all night. As  we watched, we heard reports on who was responsible and the estimated deaths. Phyllis went to bed around 10PM. I stayed glued to the TV watching, hoping for news of survivors found and lives saved. It didn't come! I heard that the country was in a no fly zone for the rest of the night. At least that was something. 

Around 11:30 PM, I shut the TV and went into our bedroom. In the dark as I started getting into bed, I heard the sound of an airplane above!! I knew it was the military keeping guard over our country as we slept but for a second, I worried. I knew it couldn't be an enemy plane, right?? Then the realization hit home for the first time. Things had changed and would never be quite the same again. For a second, no matter how brief, I had worried that an enemy airplane might be flying over the skies of Melrose (a typical little town America).  I slept good that night mostly from exhaustion. I felt like I had worked a 12 hour shift in construction. 

The next day on the way to work, you could see changes. US flags were everywhere; the backs of car windows, propped up in the back of pickup trucks and hanging in windows of office buildings. A new era of heightened patriotism was about to begin. You heard patriotic songs everywhere, many old but also some new ones and not just on country western stations but everywhere. I also couldn't help but notice that we were all treating each other with a little more respect, just being nicer to each other! Doors were being held  open for other people, no cars horns were blasting away in anger and no one finger salutes were being given. We were healing and we needed each other and we were family; a family of United States citizens, who wanted revenge and to feel safe. 

Later that week Phyllis and I decided to go to New York City. We wanted to pay our respects and to see first hand what we were seeing on TV. We drove out early on September 21st and reached  New York and our hotel about 11 AM. I remember getting out of our car in front of the hotel and thinking that it was a bad day for photography. Bright sun filtered through hazy skies. There was no blue skies today!!! We went to our room, took out our cameras and left to see how close we could get to ground zero. We thought we would not get too close but we were going to see what we could. 

On the way down in the elevator, there was Phyllis, me and a firefighter from our state.  No words were said but just before we reached the lobby I said, "Thank you". That's all, just two words. He looked at us and said, "You're welcome but I'm just doing my job." He smiled and as we left the elevator, all I could think was, This was the attitude of over three hundred firefighters who ten days earlier had lost their lives just doing their jobs. Those who went up when others were going down the stairwells.

We went to the subway and found the train that would take us to Broadway. Ordinarily I would not be on a New York Subway with an expensive camera but I felt safe that day in New York and I was! When we arrived and went up to the street, we were greeted by these images hanging on the wall right outside the subway entrance.


A stark reminder of the people lost that day!! By the way, I checked on Google recently for the names of some of the people on these posters. They all died on 9-11. You see that young women in the shadows? See her face? That is the expression we saw all day. No smiles this day and not for awhile would there be smiles.

We started walking down Broadway towards the intersection of Liberty and Broadway. We reached a certain point where we found what we thought we would, the street was blocked off. We saw that people were walking to the left and then were taking the next right heading in the direction we wanted to reach. We followed and after awhile found ourselves back on Broadway, not knowing exactly where we were. There were many people walking with us. We were all on the sidewalk on the right side of the street because the other sidewalk was off limits. There were rows of people 5 or 6 across, blocks long walking slowly. Phyllis and I mentioned how quiet and polite everyone was being. At a certain point we could start seeing signs of the destruction. 




We could also see stores with windows blown out, covered in dust; the remains of the towers and the people in those towers.




I need to say that we were not used to photographing anything like this. We photograph happiness, joy and beautiful things. There was none that, that day. I do not think I did as well as I could have. I could not separate the photographer from the citizen who was hurting like all the other US citizens. I passed up some shots of people that I should have taken and I'll talk about that more in Monday's blog1

As we walked on, we saw more of the rubble as we looked down side streets.


All I could think of was that there were people sitting and standing on this material as the towers collapsed. At one point I looked up and saw these street signs. We had reached Ground Zero or as close as anyone could that day.


In front of us was where the towers had stood proudly until the planes hit. Now neighboring buildings stood with windows blown out and the signs of death and destruction all around. Smoke was still rising from the areas!!




                         Some more images from that day!!




In the image below, you can see men working on cleaning up and searching for survivors.








In this image you can see a US flag hanging from a beam, placed there by some workers. People who have seen this image and the number two on the ribs have asked if that signifies Tower 2. I really don't know. It could be or it could be a number put there during the construction for some reason.









The US flag was seen in many places that day but the ones at Ground Zero were the most poignant for me. This image of one of the surrounding buildings standing tall with the flag proudly displayed and the next image, just tugged at my heart, making me  proud to be an American!!




When I saw this, I smiled and felt very proud of this country and it's people, especially the first responders and the people working at Ground Zero. Amid all this destruction and sadness, there was a salute to the people who were gone but never forgotten.


I am proud of many things; Phyllis, my family, being of Italian descent and fiercely proud of being an American. Those planes killed thousands, hurt our economy and our national psyche but we are Americans and we will come back just like Ground Zero is coming back.  As our President said we are bigger then our problems!!
 See this link to see the new Tower!


With the help of more statesmen and less politicians, we will do it and we will never forget!! 
This image was taken in New York the next day!!!





44 comments:

BlogNostics said...

Really interesting and informative post Jim.
It was an event that not only shocked or saddened America but also the rest of the world. I remember being glued to the tele that night for us here.

It's good to be patriotic but not to the expense of other nations and never in revenge.

cheers A

JIM said...

I agree 1000% but revenge is a natural feeling when a attack is place on your family. It was and remains a trying time for all of us.

Jessica M said...

Wow...I got goosebumps reading this post. Really profound reflections and haunting photos. I remember that day well. I was on interstate 95 on my way to college in New Haven CT when I heard about the planes hitting the towers. I remember stopping at a local D&D, everyone just stood in silence watching the footage on a tv mounted on the store's ceiling. We all were shocked and horrified. What a sad, sad day.

Irene said...

Commemorating the 9-11 attack still gives me chills. One of the worst tragedies that ever happened to mankind. Your photos are beautiful. They made me feel the doom that surrounded NYC that day.

Siddhartha Joshi said...

Somehow I just can't look at the images still, its just too painful to think what happened that day...

But your post is great, manages to touch the right cord. I was still doing my graduation then, and these were the most shocking images we ever saw on TV then...

JIM said...

Jessica I will teel you something I had not looked at these images for 10 years, I just couldn't. For the 10 year anniversary I decided to remember it in my way.

Iren and Siddhartha thank you for visiting and now following our blog. It was a horrible day for my country and I think the world. In many ways we have not recovered fully. We will!!

Savira Gupta said...

Those images and that day is etched forever in peoples hearts mores for those that were in it or lost a loved one ....

melissa said...

I was in Liturgy class when I heard the news from my colleagues. I remembered how affected they were and I didn't know anything about it. It brought sadness to a beautiful month and persists with the tragic death of many. I remembered for many years questions such as 'why did this happen?' and 'who should pay for it?' kept repeating themselves.

I stayed with the images you took (they gave me the shivers) and prayed for your country and for all of you out there.

911 is a universal call for emergency...9/11 is a universal call towards healing...and rebirth...

Love and prayers America!

Portia said...

Ten years on,the evil still stalks!
I remember how my mom closed my eyes by her hand then,but I felt her sobs through her trembling hand..
-PORTIA

JIM said...

Savira yes it is in our hearts, well said!!

Melissa your words are always touching, I as an American appreciate them

Portia.. Thank you so much for sharing this intimate moment. It is what I was hoping to hear from people


Thank You all

Kati said...

This is too hard for me to read, but I did Jim. A reminder to never forget that day.

JIM said...

Kati It was hard to photograph , the hardest I have ever had

Jan said...

Jim,an excellent post, stark and true photos of a time of true devastation of our country and beautiful reflections about who we are. As I looked at your photos I was taken back to a horrible time, yet I never want to forget that time or the people we lost that day to the hands of angry, misguided people. The flags oh those flags, what beauty I see there. Thank you Jim for this.

Bongo said...

Still hurt for this day...the world..the people...I was in New Jersey...was supposed to be at the towers at the time it happened....still remember the haze up above..husband was crossing bridge into NY when 2nd plane hit..he saw it and what was happening...emotions stirred up again...tears....As always,,,XOXOOXOXOXO

Bongo said...

oops...

http://bongoisme.blogspot.com/2011/09/this-moment_09.html#axzz1XPtBelPo

Jewell said...

Jim this was beautifully done, and a beautiful tribute to those that lost their lives that horrific day. I hope you don't mind that I didn't look at most of the pictures...it's still a wound too raw and to this day I avoid visuals and the tears that come unbidden and unhindered.

While not losing or knowing anyone that was lost or knew anyone that was lost, I was more insulated than most. Yet my life changed in so many ways that day from the business that we run to the way I look at the my world around me and the people in it.

I am fiercely proud to be American. I always have been. 9/11 only solidified it.

AJ said...

I got goosebumps reading your post and looking at the photos while listening to the audio of the video.

JIM said...

Thank You Jan when I saw that flag flying high over New York City that day I felt really great!!


Bongo We are so happy you were not there. Thank You

Jewell-- I honestly had not looked at these images for almost ten years. I understand!!

AJ.. Thank You as Photographers we hope to bring emotions from our viewers. I just thought people should not forget and this was my small part of helping them remember

Martha J. M. Orlando said...

Ten years later, and I'm still shell-shocked. Your photos drove it home, telling the story of what we can never allow to happen in or to this country again.

Jim, the first word out of my mouth when I found out was the same as yours: "terrorists". Sadly, we were right . . .

God bless you and all the families who lost loved ones in that tragedy ten years ago.

Chintan said...

I watched the documentary about *the falling man of 911* your photos reminded me of the same....

sad day indeed! peace is expensive to think of in today's times.

Mari Sterling Wilbur said...

Your photos and narrative are so raw and bring the day back like it was yesterday. I know none of us will forget where we were on 9/11 and how we found out about the event, reacted to it, and dealt with the aftermath. Again, incredible photos. My favorite is the "We Shall Never Forget" photo. Peace.

Abhisek said...

I still remember that moment.I was watching news with my dad and all of a sudden this sad breaking news came as a shock.The scene of the twin towers falling like house of cards is still fresh in my mind.It was a painful experience.

Jim said...

I knew when I came over to your site that this was going to be a very poignant and disturbing post. But I am amazed that you have such great dramatic images of the event. They are very telling. I'm writing at the moment our memories of this terrible day, but I don't think they will ever be as strong as your own, as an American who feels first hand this affront on their country and its people.
I often think about all the rescue workers who lost their lives attempting to save others...possibly the saddest part to see so many heroes, ordinary people lose their lives.

Nelieta said...

Jim, you have done an amazing job with this post! I remember so well when this happened and how we were glued in front of the TV just crying. Looking back to all the photos it still brings tears to my eyes.

May all the families who have been affected by this act of terrorism find peace and consolation.

tbaoo said...

thank you !!

vaisakhi said...

i still have goosebumps...painful memories...how can some people abandon humanity n sin to this extnt....they all will surely pay 4 wat they ve done...
peace to people who lost their lives

Tameka said...

Jim as always your words and images bring us to the heart of the moment. I was on my way to work that day and the trains stalled and sputtered at 72nd street. I never made it in and was stunned by the tragedy. I walked to my best friend's apt and we cried and called our parents. One of our mutual friends was at work in one of the towers and was able to get out! She came to the apt hours later as she had to walk all the way because no trains or buses were running. When she arrived she was covered in white dust and we could tell she had been crying. She was literally shaking as we hugged, cried and watched TV until the wee hours. It is a day I will never forget and I agree with everything you said. We need to continue healing and leave the politics out of it. God bless us all. Jim thanks for this raw but beautiful memorial.

http://lyricfire.typepad.com/lyric-fire/YYYY/MM/lyric-fire-sapphire-for-september.html

JIM said...

Tameka..When I was writing this I thought of you and wondered what it was like for you, living in the city.
So happy your friend was one of the lucky ones. Is she still living and working in New York city??

melissa said...

Have revisited this post today as we remember 9/11. It complemented Tameka's post on Lyric Fire and my thoughts and prayers are very near.

Yes, I do hope this day be transformed into the day Americans were united...

Tameka said...

Jim & Melissa, thanks for thinking of me. I have so many memories from that day. As for our friend, I was connected to her through another friend whose circle I am no longer part of so I don't know if she still lives here. But I pray that wherever she is that she is blessed, safe and happy.

10 years brings so many changes as I am not even close to the best friend that I had for 20 years. But when you share memories, you keep a piece of each other even though you may become distant.

One of my business associates at the time lived downtown and she had a eye-view of the twin towers. No one who wasn't a resident was allowed in just after the tragedy but she was able to get me in. I didn't have a fancy cell phone at the time so I didn't get to take any pics but I can tell you it was haunting. I could literally feel and hear the souls that were lost. I spent many hours there and paid my respects amidst the debris and shorn steel. Jim your pics brought back many memories as you probably stood in some of the same spots as I did looking at the aftermath. Thank God for the present as he heals out past.

BlogNostics said...

Jim,

Reading you post took me right back to that day. Seeing your images brought it all Home for me.
I have no words other than I was living in NYC and that day is etched in my mind and heart for the rest of my life.

Great post yet upsetting

Jessica

Mani said...

Jim u made me nostalgic..coz India almost evey year goes through these terrific attacks..killing plenty...Hats off to you!

Kriti said...

Jim what you wrote in the last para of your post is something I had just written in Jim Mcintosh's blog as a comment! That is what I take away as a learning. Thank you for this and the pictures. They really bring back sordid thoughts - but that's important - those thoughts should never go away.

Jan said...

I left a comment when I first read this, a couple days later I am still reeling from the images. What I have noticed is that as I watch the videos of that day, I am as glued to it as I was when it was happening. The shock has not dissipated, I can still taste the horror as I watch. Thank you for sharing this.

Dangerous Linda said...

powerful & sobering. thank you for posting this tribute in words and images.

fortysomethingfirsttimemum said...

I am in tears looking at your photos and reading your post. Echoes of 9/11 were felt and are still being felt around the world.

David said...

Amazing pictures from a tragic day that will forever remain etched in my memory. What a sad heartbreaking day and I'll never forget it. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who paid the ultimate price on 9/11!! May we never forget!!!!

Cathy Sweeney said...

Jim, it's been a long time since I've watched some of the footage in your video. Chilling to see it again. Your own photos are intense reminders of the devastation of that day as well as the courage of first responders and workers. Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful post.

Derek Jones said...

Looking at these images and reading your story brought back all the memories of how I felt when I first seen these terrorist attacks. Although I live in the UK and watched the events unfold on TV, those memories will stay with me forever. Since these attacks, the terrorists have achieved nothing except for one thing, they’ve brought people and allies closer together.

Nice post and images Jim on such a devastating and memorable event.

Derek's Home and Business Blog
10th Anniversary Of 9/11: A Private Tribute

Debbie said...

I remember where I was that horrible day... I was teaching my preschool class... (at a christian private school) they were learning 'He's Got the Whole World in His Hands'. The director of our center came to my door and called me into the hall and told me what happened. I vaguely remember saying that I had a couple friends working in one of those towers. Her and I did a quick prayer together and I went back into my class.

Seeing the pictures of the buildings and seeing the videos of the towers is hard for me.

Larry Lewis said...

I have seen some terrible things in my life. But seeing these pictures, and remembering this awful event in one of my favourite cities, New York, it is still hard to believe this could have happened there.

sukanya said...

a very well written post. 10 years later, the wounds still exist, the loss still unbearable. it doesnt get better ...it just gets more surreal.
great shots Jim.

Saun said...

Thanks for sharing Jim. You did a great job on capturing 9/11 with your photos.I stumbled across your blog through Holes in My Soles. I linked up before I looked at everyone's post. Otherwise I wouldn't have.... because of the other photos I have with my 9/11 pic. They aren't bad I just feel now my 9/11 collage should have been by itself. Have a great week!

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