And the Buildings Came Tumbling Down In All Directions (Part 3: The Birth of US Event Photos)
September 13th broke bright and clear, just like the two days prior. A picture perfect early fall day, the sun remained behind the veil of smoke that blanketed New York City.
He Who Shall Not Be Named and I rose from bed, and took the subway — yes, the subway — as close as we could get to Ground Zero. Remember, part of the tunnels had collapsed, the subway system was in chaos, but trains still ran up and down the island. From the last stop, we hoofed it down toward Ground Zero, unsure how close we could get.
Buildings started showing scars. Windows were intact, but completely covered with dirt, a dust of white powder covered everything. Very high end boutique shops were shuttered, the merchandise within completely blanketed in grime. Footprints went into one shop, disappeared in the back, and never exited.
Two days into the largest terrorist attack in US history, the emergency workers were still in rescue mode. And there were rescue workers everywhere. All of them looked exhausted. All of them were covered with the same white powder.
But there were also New Yorkers everywhere. Flags, and hats, and US tee shirts waived from every balcony, were sported on every head, and were hawked by every street merchant. Make shift memorials sprung up in parks. Candles lit and burned next to photos; people stood dazed on street corners handing out fliers.
“Have you seen me?” Photo of a smiling 20 year old girl under the screaming banner, “I was in Two World Trade Center.” The person handing out the leaflet was weeping.
And the closer you got to Ground Zero, the worse the stench. A mixture of electrical smell with a heady odor just underneath, getting worse every moment in the warm weather — a sweet smell, pungent: the smell of death and decomposition.
I kept expecting to get stopped. But I wasn’t. Everything was in chaos. News crews everywhere. And me. Standing with my Nikon N7007 camera, and a $300 Vivitar zoom lens freshly bought from B&H. (Yes, they were open. I keep deleting the joke I put here. Must. Not. Joke. )
I started talking (flirting?) to the cute camera guy I found standing next to me. Part nerves, I wasn’t sure what to do. You could still see, well, traces of gore around the area. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be here. But I was. When I’m nervous, I talk. I was chatting up a storm.
And then, I was on the other side of the security perimeter, such as it was. The side the public wasn’t supposed to be on.
It seems the camera guy I was speaking with worked for CNN. Those checking credentials thought I did, too, and waived me on in.
I was standing at Ground Zero.