I just so happen to still have the negatives for these photos of Ground Zero on Fuji Superia 800. They were inside an old photo album. No one ever really kept their negatives back then, unless you were a photographer, so it’s a bit of a miracle. While I scanned them, all of these memories came back and I wanted to share them with you today on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. I hope you enjoy.
September 11, 2001
Everyone remembers where they were on Nine Eleven when they heard, or saw, that the Twin Towers had gone down. I was still asleep that morning when a phone call from my sister woke me up. She was at work so she had to whisper, but in an urgent tone she said, “Turn on your tv. The World Trade Center was hit by a plane.” Still groggy, and not understanding what she was saying, I mumbled something I can’t remember. She then rushed me off the phone saying, “Just go turn on your tv”. So I got up and turned it on exactly as the second plane hit the second tower live on television.
Continuing to watch in horror, still not quite understanding what was happening, I wondered were the planes out of control? What the heck is happening? Then the news anchor, describing what we were watching, said (I am paraphrasing from memory) “there’s people trapped in the buildings and they’re throwing paper and furniture out the window.” They paused. “Oh my God, thats not furniture, those are people. Oh my God. People are jumping from the Twin Towers”. My stomach sank and I will never, ever forget that moment. I’ll never forget watching those people jump from those buildings in New York, because they felt they had no other choice.
The country changed after that attack. It was like the entire USA was wounded and suffering from PTSD. People were kinder to one another after that. Doors were held, compassion was common, and a strong sense of national pride grew stronger. On the opposite end of this positive change was the rampant prejudice that began to leach through our neighborhoods for anyone with a tan and a beard. I remember my friend’s hispanic husband having to leave an Olive Garden because he had a beard. People were staring at him with hostility.
Television shows and movies changed. We started to see more super heroes. I recall a scene in Spider Man where the New Yorkers yell at the Green Goblin, “you mess with one of us you mess with all of us”. It sounds corny now, but at the time it was a rallying cry that everyone felt and believed.
Ground Zero on Fuji Superia 800
It was a while before we were allowed to fly again. It was even longer before we weren’t afraid to go on a plane. Especially on a flight to New York. However, my family lives there, and I really wanted to see them after this happened. My brother and I flew there together in October of 2002. I brought with me my first camera, the Canon EOS Rebel G. The only film I could find at that time, at the dawn of digital, was Fuji Superia 800.
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After visiting with my family on Long Island, my brother and I went to spend the rest of our trip with my Uncle Dallas. He was going to take us into the city to see the site of what was the Twin Towers. It was now being called Ground Zero. My Uncle once lived on the New York subway when he was a homeless teenager, and he knew the city like the back of his hand. We only ever went into the city with him.
When we first got to Ground Zero, the loud noise of the city seemed to go down as if someone was turning down the stereo. There was fencing all around the site to keep the hundreds of spectators out, and inside were construction workers.
At first, I didn’t know exactly what I was seeing. There was a gigantic square hole in the ground that my uncle explained was the underground section of the Twin Towers where all of the shopping centers were located. I had no idea those were down there because I always assumed the towers were only business offices. He then explained that tourists would go down there as well as New Yorkers to shop. He also said that many people were trapped down there in the attacks and died. That was when I think it really hit me that we were standing around a mass grave.
The entire site was like a museum for tourists. Every few feet there was a sign or plaque on the fence describing a fact about the towers. It was so crowded, and I remember trying to frantically take photos, and video while keeping up with my brother and Uncle as they quickly walked in front of me.
At this point, I didn’t know anything about photography. My Canon was set to Auto, so some of the exposures were under-exposed, but I will always treasure these photos and that experience with my Uncle who is gone now. I don’t think he ever really knew how much I loved our trips to the city.
I was only 14 years old when I watched the Twin Towers fall. It’s crazy to think that there’s a generation now that never knew them. When I was just a little girl, I’d pretend to be a business woman who worked in the Twin Towers, playing with Monopoly money and my dad’s old brief case. Now there’s a monument there to ensure that no one ever forgets.
What I do hope for though, is that people can remember the fear we felt that day. That smack in the face when we realized that our world could be turned upside down in the blink of an eye. I hope that some can remember the compassion that followed when we realized we were all on the same team when we saw for ourselves who was plotting on the other side.
Never forget 9/11, better yet, never forget Ground Zero.
Until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.