12 Years Ago

September 11, 2013

For me and my family personally, September 11 was a reminder that life is fleeting, impermanent, and uncertain. Therefore, we must make use of every moment and nurture it with affection, tenderness, beauty, creativity, and laughter.
-Deepak Chopra, M.D.

The short story: Today twelve years ago, I became a photographer.

I was working in Washington, DC for the United States Dep’t of Transportation at the time — occasionally I’d be working in our small office located inside of the Pentagon, more often I would be on travel anywhere domestically from Seattle to Miami, LA to Boston. This particular Tuesday I could’ve been on a flight slated for California but hijacked to PA, NY, or VA. I very easily could’ve been sitting in a chair in our office in a wing of the Pentagon.

Instead, I had been assigned to a federal building in lower Manhattan for the week and took the train up with some coworkers from Washington Monday afternoon. I spent a truly carefree evening of September 10th dining and drinking and laughing with a photographer friend of mine in Brooklyn before walking through the World Trade Center plaza on my way to an adjacent hotel for the night.

I was traveling so frequently at the time that my friends and family really had no idea where in the country I was when the news broke- most of them thinking I was at the Pentagon until they finally received word the evening of 9/11/01 that I was in fact in the thick of it in NYC.

Below was my view-from-the-office that morning, the 41st floor of the U.S. Department of Justice, Immigrations and Naturalizations at 26 Federal Plaza on Broadway, a handful of blocks from the World Trade Center. The 2nd plane impacted Tower 1 just a second before this frame was taken. A couple of my coworkers were scheduled to be in our I.R.S. location located inside one of the Twin Towers a couple of days later. I bought all the rolls of Fuji and Kodak the bodega had at ground level after we were evacuated from the building, and, loosely tethered to my coworkers, lived the events as they unfolded around us in a mixture of naked-eye shock and through the viewfinder of my Nikon.

I have had a compulsion to document, archive, appreciate and be fully alive in this precious present ever since.

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2 Responses to “12 Years Ago”


  1. Just out of curiosity: How many photos did you shoot that day? Were they published?


    • Thank you for asking! I shot as many rolls of film as I could find at corner bodegas and stuff into my pockets along the way north on the island to perceived safety. A small selection from what I processed went on national tour the following year as part of a bigger collaborative exhibition and were published in the book “The September 11 Project” in 2003, which was originally published by Harper-Collins. 100% of the proceeds from sales of the book went directly to the NYC Fire Fighters’ Victim Burn Center.


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