The last few years I’ve made it a point to try and photograph the wonderful World Trade Center memorial here in New York on Sept. 11 — once I was late to work after photographing it, during the Minor League playoffs, after the A train broke down under the East River, and two years ago I ended up going over around 3 a.m. for a creepy, rat-filled night on the Hudson. This year, I’ll be up at West Point, and to my knowledge, the city has abandoned this great light-memorial this year due to financial reasons.
Anyway, before I head up to USMA today — Army will carry a WTC flag into Michie before the game — I thought it would be good to share some of my photos from the last few years:
2007 was the first year I shot the lights as I was finishing up my senior year of college in September ’06. It was really crummy weather and very foggy, so the window of opportunity to capture an image with the light beams was incredibly short, especially with long exposures, it was a guessing game. A few came out nicely with the low clouds. One difference was, I shot it earlier in the night, so the Brooklyn Bridge’s lights were still on. In 2008, when I went late, the lights were off. I used to meet my girlfriend here for lunch, it’s a specular view in general.
One of the really neat things with these shots was the ability to change the whole color and mood of the image by simply adjusting the white balance on the camera. Some came out a dark, cool blue, and others produced violets and oranges in the sky using a long exposures on a tripod. Including the flag on the bridge was also a nice detail.
One thing I tried to do was work in the Brooklyn Bridge, as iconic a part of the New York skyline as the towers were in their day.
One of the more troubling parts of visiting the World Trade Center site, besides the obvious gloom, is the make-shift memorial that has attracted nutjobs and folks trying to sell souvenirs, collectible books of photos, etc. What an inappropriate place to try and make a buck. It’s nothing compared to the hatred and politicized nonsense going on now, though, which is just really unfortunate. Part of the good that came out of 9/11 was how it brought people together, not to sound cliched, but it was an event that united New Yorkers. Today, we see a much different atmosphere in America. I think part of the enjoyment of going to an Army football game, or just West Point in general, is that you don’t feel the political division, just pride.
This photo was taken a few years ago at the Ground Zero viewing area, but I suppose it’s even more interesting now considering the immense wave of Islamaphobia in this city and country.
People with more time have gotten much better images of this annual moment than I have, although I got one semi-unique shot a few years ago while driving home from MLB — pulling off at a scenic overlook on the Palisades Parkway, I got a shot of the lights with the George Washington Bridge in front, a pretty unusual angle, combining uptown and downtown and the glow of the city in one frame:
I was in high school art class on Sept. 11, 2001 when my teacher said a plane had hit one of the towers. I left the room and snuck back into the A/V room of the library and flipped on a TV to see what was going on — and it was dead. That’s one thing I remember about 9/11, many of the television stations in the city had broadcast antennas on top of the towers, and suddenly, all you saw was snow on TV, it was very eerie. When I got home that day from school, my parents had already left work early and were home, watching the news. I remember walking outside into my driveway and seeing the smoke in the distance. I think everyone has one of those stories, it was that type of moment in time.