Twenty years ago, I was in Yosemite National Park due to be in New York three days’ after. All flights were grounded.
I waited at San Francisco airport and managed to board a flight. I arrived in New York with a change of purpose, assigned to document the aftermath of 9/11.
I went with the intention of photographing the destruction of the twin towers and ground zero, but this quickly changed to documenting the emotionally charged atmosphere within the people of New York. Everyday for a week I walked the streets around ground zero, speaking and photographing people in mourning, protestors, and emergency workers. There was an undeniable spirit of unity in a city that you are normally “on your own”.
I did photograph the wreckage of the twin towers, along with the surrounding buildings which had either been destroyed, damaged, or filled with dust. I also captured people at numerous vigils and protests. Emotions were strong and I witnessed love, compassion, anger, hate, and opportunity on every corner. There was 9/11 memorabilia being sold with T shirts and photos of the planes flying into the sides of the towers. I spoke and photographed one Afghan restaurant owner who had already experienced vandalism and abuse to an extent that he was closing his business down.
Where has the last twenty years gone and what has been achieved? Today we remember those who lost their lives on 9/11 2001, vowing “never forget”. We need to all recognise that the only way forward is to live with the same spirit of humanity, that was experienced in the aftermath.