/11 never forget.
As an exodus of survivors finally made their way out of the smoke and into the sunshine, this was taken on the Brooklyn Bridge shortly after the second tower fell.
Joseph Sylvester, who claimed to work at the World Financial Center, was the first person I met.
His head was bleeding from a piece of debris that had fallen on him, and he was coated in ash.
He said that he was searching for his father, who worked in the neighborhood.
They were so peaceful and quiet, I’ll never forget it. I imagine everyone was stunned, and they were all quietly making their way to safety.
For me, Michele Defazio’s picture serves as a reminder of strangers’ generosity. Every September 11th, I remember her.
Michele walked alone toward the Bowery, where a missing people reporting center had been set up, and I stood there watching her.
Her sorrow and anxiety overtook her as she carried her handmade flyers with her husband’s picture, and she stopped for the tiniest of seconds. Strangers stopped to console her on the street.
It was just a brief moment. I contacted Michele shortly after this picture was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. It was crucial to me that she understood the historical significance of her tale.
Given the odd connection we suddenly had, we had a brief, uncomfortable discussion. She informed me she was still grieving over her husband’s death and that she had established a scholarship fund in his honor.
In the days after the assault, we learned that 658 Cantor Fitzgerald workers were killed, including Michele’s husband, Jason.
Later, while photographing the huge wave of people who had joined together in their sorrow, I covered their memorial ceremony, weeping myself.
My assignment was a funeral in Yonkers, for an E.M.S. worker killed in the attack. The world press was there, too, but after the burial, they packed up their gear and left. I stayed for a tribute by the E.M.T.s that included a salute and music from a boom box. I shot three frames in the rain, at the end of a roll when Jay Robbins teared up. I’ll never forget how it happened right when the music started playing. For me, it’s been difficult to look at this photograph. It still breaks my heart.
The feeling of the cold autumn air and the relentless blue sky, not the flames or the crushed grey concrete of the Pentagon, is what I remember. There were pieces of green jet structure underfoot. I barely got a few minutes to photograph before rescue crews and others took over. I was quite familiar with the area. Every day on my walk home from the bureau, I passed it. I’d met two of the passengers on the flight. I knew American life would never be the same by the time fighter planes flew above, as though in quiet, enraged homage.
In the weeks after Sept. 11, I was tasked with photographing the wreckage – an irreversibly changed environment in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. A terrible, burnt odor lingered in the air, and paper pieces had been blown all the way into Brooklyn by the wind. I observed a fire vehicle with blown-out windows, no longer red but coated in white ash and debris, hauled back to the firehouse, Engine 226, as I was driving. When I looked to my right, I saw an emotional scene developing, and I snapped two photos discreetly. Lt. Matt Nelson reacts as Tom Casatelli, the truck’s only survivor hugs the son of his dead colleague Lt. Bob Wallace. It’s a memory that I’ll never forget.
Following the terrorist assaults, people temporarily put their differences aside. On Park Avenue, American flags fluttered from the windows. Memorials sprung up all throughout the city, including this one in Union Square. On a regular basis, prayer and candlelight vigils were conducted. People came together to support one another, and the nation mourned as a whole. We have ripped apart twenty years ago, yet we came together to be the greatest versions of ourselves. I can’t help but wonder, as we rip ourselves apart two decades later, who won?
Outside St. Francis Assisi Church on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2001, for the funeral of Mychal Judge, a Franciscan friar, priest, and chaplain for the New York City Fire Department, who died on Sept. 11 while delivering last rites at the World Trade Center. I was not permitted to photograph dignitaries or speakers inside, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The church was packed, but a throng gathered in front of the Engine 1/Ladder 24 firehouse, which is just across the street from the church. The crew was mainly firemen, some in vintage uniforms. Judge’s friend and fellow friar Michael A. Duffy urged everyone to rise, raise their right hands, and bless Mychal, who had blessed so many people in life and death. The throng in front of the fire station lifted their hands, echoing the blessing he’d given to so many others. And I, too, was fortunate.
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