Awarded with a European Newspaper Award
In August 2010, I started a year-long journey as a New York based photographer, to create a pictorial study of my home town as it continues to recover from the 9/11 tragedy ten years on. I wanted to feel the pulse of the city to determine if its wounds remain open, have healed or if scar tissue has formed. The past year has been filled with highly charged events in the run-up to the tenth anniversary, with controversy surrounding the possible location of an Islamic Center near Ground Zero, in addition to the death of Osama Bin Laden. The redevelopment of Ground Zero is now well underway, after laying dormant for many years; a gaping hole in the city’s fabric is being mended, and new towers begin to emerge once again.
9/11 was a terrible day; I witnessed it myself up close. After turning on the television and watching the second plane hit the tower, I jumped in the subway from the upper east side of Manhattan and headed south to the World Trade Center. Midway to my destination, the power went out. After waiting in a dark subway train for an hour, I exited my carriage and walked along the tracks until I reached the 23rd Street station, where I went up to street level. I continued my walk south to WTC from there.
As I drew near WTC, I could no longer see the two towers which had once been so prominent in Manhattan’s skyline; a firefighter told me that they had collapsed. I approached the site and stood by the smoldering and burning remains. If a place called hell exist, it would be right there, right then. I walked down streets lined with burning cars. I saw a businessman, standing there, lost, in shock, white shirt soaked with blood, bandaged head. I saw a firefighter on a stretcher, unconscious, having succumbed to smoke. A thick dust from the destroyed towers was hanging in the streets, mixed with smoke from the fires, they were making me sick. People yelling and screaming. A policeman grabbing me, dragging me down the street yelling, “No pictures you fucker!” I know that I carry scar tissue, painful memories that may always remain with me, buried only in a shallow grave. Even now, almost ten years later, if I see a plane disappearing behind a tall building, I still hold my breath, and then exhale with relief when it reappears and continues along its route. Although I didn’t lose family or friends, on that day I lost part of my innocence, my belief that this world could exist in peace.
On the tenth anniversary this September, we will once again mourn the past, the loss of loved ones, friends and strangers. Since this is such an important milestone, I believe that a more comprehensive review should be made in New York. The events of 9/11 opened up a global Pandora’s Box; the war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, homeland security issues in the U.S.A., religious tensions throughout the world. Here in New York, issues relating to the building of an Islamic Center near Ground Zero revealed to us that raw emotions are still bubbling just below the surface. While many affected people resumed their daily lives, first responders are still dying in great numbers from the toxic dust they inhaled while working at Ground Zero. Ten years later, it is now time for all of us to look collectively in the mirror and attempt to understand how far we have come in our healing process. We must also look more closely at individuals whose lives were changed dramatically to see how they continue to cope now. I feel that my project will contribute a more in-depth and broad discussion of these issues.
My project was published as a newspaper entitled Scar Tissue. It was handed out free of charge in lower Manhattan on September 11th 2011. I worked with journalist Bas den Hond, correspondent for the Dutch newspaper Trouw on this project. Scar Tissue contains a series of pictures, interviews and stories. In addition Scar Tissue was included, as a supplement, with Trouw newspaper in The Netherlands and De Tijd newspaper in Belgium. Scar Tissue was released in English, but also in Dutch.
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