This website is undergoing a makeover. For now, I’d like to share a few thoughts and images of a theme we all know well.
In February of 1971 I was a kid with a camera. A kindly neighbor and master plumber working the Sunday shift on the North Tower said he’d take me to the top of the world. It was crisp that early morning and incredibly cold as I recall. A harsh wind blew out of the west which made my footing unsure. But what did I know? I wasn’t scared much; it was thrilling; I was on top of the world. At that point in time, The Twin Towers had no skin; they were hardly twins yet. It was a kind of skeleton, an astounding gigantic erector set. Multiple construction elevators throughout the structure as well as attached to the exterior of the two huge monoliths continually brought tons of building materials to their final destinations for the various tradesman to have at it. We were in The North Tower, as high as the 104th floor. The vista was amazing. The South Tower seemed small at just sixty-six stories. The Hudson River had a new shoreline, created with massive amounts of excavated material removed to make space for the WTC foundation and the complex transit system to be installed below. Multiple parts of the island’s history had been dug up, enabling the basis for new chapters; what would become Battery Park City and The World Financial Center. It was apparent that big ideas and big money had come to monopolize New York.
I was an inexperienced photographer, groping with a camera, to say little of the penetrating wintery elements. I wish I could recall what camera that was and of course, wish I could do it again with what I now know. For one favorite picture, Walter held my feet as I lay on the barren cement floor so I could lean over the edge and shoot straight down between the steel structural beams that would eventually border the windows running up to the 107th floor observation deck. It was one of too few pictures I took that day.
It is unproven whether Isaac Newton said “What goes up must come down”, but usually we find it happens. What was I thinking that September morning on September 11, alone in our home and photo studio on Franklin Street in Tribeca? I can’t recall, but it was a beautiful day. There was lots of construction in the area. Tribeca was in the throes of becoming a boomtown, already was I guess. There was frequently noise and constant dust in the air. The stereo was on, tuned to a radio station. I heard the startling news as the world entered a horrific new era.
Our family, a speck in the vast scheme of things, weathered the events fairly well that day and in the aftermath. My wife Anne was in-flight returning from Chicago; diverted to Buffalo for the following few days. Kyle, our son, was at PS 234 on the corner of Chambers and Greenwich Streets, his classroom facing south. Unable to get news of Anne whereabouts, the downed plane in Pennsylvania prompted a mass of emotions you may only imagine. I was eight or nine blocks away from the attacked South Tower; Kyle’s classroom was a mere three. School officials did what they could to organize a speedy exit for the children. The towers hadn’t fallen; who suspected they would? Some children made their way with their bewildered parents, others with the parents of a friend or school officials. There were no cellphones. I hurried to find Kyle and truly as luck would have it, we discovered each other on Greenwich Street. Anne watched the scorched South Tower fall on television in the Buffalo International Airport. She suffered alone in the midst of strangers. Our ability to communicate was only made possible through her sister in Illinois, who was able to speak with us individually and convey the status. Kyle and I, along with the throng on Greenwich Street, watched the towers fall. It was truly amazing to watch and I froze in the moment. Each tower collapsed straight down onto itself in a stunning and ever-rising billow. I suppose that similar westerly winds which took my breath away on The North Tower in 1971 took the massive amounts of smoke and debris and my-oh-my what else, and blew it steadily toward Brooklyn. Much of the area just a few blocks north of the towers, including our block, was spared the awful resultant ground cover which buried the immediately vicinity in musty gray powder. The horror which was that day begot the mammoth effort which rose in the days that followed. On one such day a flatbed truck on Church Street, on its way to a site where the debris would eventually be sorted and analyzed, stopped at a light. For months, there were hundreds of those trucks, some carrying the charred and twisted metal remains of the buildings. I borrowed an item from this precious cargo for a photograph.
There were many photographers and videographers whose work documented that day and the days that followed. A number of my pictures are in the WTC permanent collection memorializing those who perished.