I remember the day as if yesterday. I was home at the time. A friend of mine called me on his way to work saying that a plane flew into one of the World Trade Towers. I then grabbed my camera and went to the roof of my building in the East Village to have a look. I decided to grab my lenses and go downtown. During that time a second plane crashed into the other tower. I ran down the Bowery and got as far as Canal Street, at the intersection of the Manhattan Bridge. Everything, all traffic, pedestrians, were stopped and listening to the news on car radios. I made my way through Chinatown and noticed that the police and FBI had set up a command center in the lower end of Columbu Park. I proceeded further downtown, occasionally passing someone, mostly businessmen, covered in thick grayish white dust, asking for water. I was near City Hall and made my way further over to Trinity Church. I had not taken any photographs. I was so overwhelmed with everything that was happening, I couldn’t lift my camera to my face. I wanted to somehow help. I asked some policemen and emergency workers but they told me to stay away. I looked up and would see someone falling from one of the towers. People around me were vomiting at what they were looking at. I felt nauseous as well. I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Suddenly someone shouted that the towers were starting to fall and we should run. Everyone ran. I looked behind and saw the towers beginning to collapse and the encroaching cloud of dust and debris. I can strangely remember not hearing a sound. I ran and ran. I didn’t stop until I made my way back to Chinatown. It was all so surreal…people running by, sirens, radios blasting the news from cars, the hustle and bustle of the command post at the south end of Columbus Park, emergency workers, fire trucks going back where I had run from, and the elderly Chinese at the north end of Columbus Park playing checkers and cards as if nothing was happening at all. My last memory of the day was finding a working payphone, calling a friend, and then walking slowly home.
I have many memories of the towers. The landfill that surrounded it. Art On the Beach. The neighborhood the towers displaced. One time sneaking my way to the uppermost floors with a friend and discovering a newly married couple from Germany that were camping on an empty floor for their honeymoon. My midnight bikes rides through the Financial District with one of my college roommates.
The WTT as seen from DUMBO Brooklyn.
The first image from which this project began.
Click on image in above link to watch video.
The whole project with media coverage can be seen here – http://www.pbase.com/keithbg/looking_on&page=all
I have taken many insults and criticisms for this project. I am still trying to get a book published and an exhibition of this work. If anyone can supply leads or know of opportunities where this can be exhibited, please do not hesitate in contacting me through this blog.
Does this project define me? No. It is part of my life’s story and hopefully one of the many I have and will produce during my lifetime. It is also a New York story. One of many that one can find of that day. I find this project to be an aspect of 9/11 that no one has covered. I have published this every year on the anniversary and will continue to do so. I hope that it moves you as much as it has always moved me to take this project on.
**** Addendum – I want to thank Olivier Duong and Don Springer for first publishing this project in the “Inspired Eye”. Without them, this project would not have seen the light of day.