The great tragedy of mass death and destruction by terrorists piloting hijacked jets in New York City has left all of us who watched, in person or on our televisions with indelible memories of that day. We remember exactly where we were when the unthinkable first aircraft struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. “It has to be an accident!” many thought or said out loud in disbelieve at the burning building in closeup on the screen. That was 8:46 a.m. The horrible truth that it was no accident was confirmed at 9:03 when a second plane exploded in the South Tower.
Memories and photographs
I was in Atlanta, living in my studio on Sept. 11, 2001. I was up, showered, dressed for a day of work. I had just sat down with a cup of coffee to watch the news on Good Morning America when I witnessed the scenes described above. I had visited and still go to New York City several times a year. I remembered a photograph I’d made of the twin towers rising above and behind the NYU Library with trees from Washington Square Park in the foreground. My vantage point was a window in a 20th-floor apartment. It was not a perfect photo. It was more of a snap than a deliberately made photo. Afterall, I thought, the towers will always be there. “When I come back,” I said to myself” I can make a better image on a clearer day.” One lesson I learned all too well on 9/11 is that I can never go back to make a photo. If I want the image I must make it when I see it and not rationalize “I come back and photograph it later.”
This image was made on June 23, 1995, in a time where terrorism, attacks on America had just hit the radar with the unsuccessful bombing attacks on the towers on Feb. 23, 1993.
This photograph, looking south towards Tribeca, shows the New York skyline ten months after the destruction. It wasn’t recognizable as New York’s without the towers. They were a note not played in a song. They were a childhood home replaced by a parking lot. They were a memory.
Tiles on Greenwich Avenue
A memorial for the victims of the tragedy grew on a chain link fence on 11th Street at 7th Avenue in the Villiage. The fence is across from the Elephant and Castle, a great place for breakfast. After 9/11, people attached tiles painted in remembrance of the victims, of the event and of personal loss.
It was easy to spend a lot of time with the tiles and the emotions they represent. These were also made on July 2, 2002.
Seventeen years on…
The place where the towers stood is hallowed ground. Two fountains pour deep into what were the twin towers’ foundations. The names of the lost are engraved, surrounding each massive footprint. The 9/11 Memorial is a quiet place for contemplation, remembering and for those who have only see the towers in photos or on a screen, to experience a suggestion of their size and height that stretched skyward 1,374 feet. A new tower has grown in the twins’ stead. One World Trade Center — Freedom Tower, built to withstand a future attack, is a gleaming, shining testimony to the resilience of New York City and America as well.
Photography: ©1995-2017 Kevin Ames