As the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001 rolls around, I searched my negatives for photos I took in the days after the disaster. They were in storage and I scanned some of them for this post, which is dedicated to the memory of the people who died in the destruction. I included a shot of the Twin Towers taken from Jersey City where I lived years before the attack.
The morning of September 11, 2001 I was at the desk of my office that I just moved into on 21st Street and Broadway. I was there for only a month, and the furniture was rented. The plan that day was to have the rental furniture picked up and my new furniture delivered.
At about 8:45 AM I felt a brief rumble in the walls and floors and thought it was one of the recording studios in the building turning up the volume. Twenty minutes later I found out that two planes hit the World Trade Center. The rumble I felt was either the first plane coming in over lower Manhattan, or the impact of it hitting the North Tower, or both.
I grabbed my stethoscope and walked to the nearest hospital to volunteer. I will never forget the frantic faces and people crying in the street, talking urgently on their cell phones. I went to Cabrini Medical Center to help in the emergency room. It was the first time I went there, and it turned out I worked in this hospital for the next five years with Dr. Jeff Nichols who was director of the geriatrics program and a leader in the field.
The ER was almost empty and remained so for most of the day. I sat in a waiting room with fifteen other volunteer doctors watching TV, and in silence and disbelief we watched the towers fall. We stayed in that room with nothing to do because few injured people from the disaster site came to our hospital. The people who had major injuries and burns went to Level 1 trauma centers like St. Vincent’s and Bellevue.
I got back to my office at 4 PM. My staff went home and the phones weren’t working. The rental furniture pickup had taken place, but the bridges into Manhattan shut down and there was no delivery of the new stuff.
I sat on the floor of my empty office when I noticed my Leica loaded with fresh film. I had made the decision to pick up my stethoscope without thinking of my camera, even though the burning towers were visible from just about anywhere in my neighborhood. That was a shot I never got but I have no regrets about my decision to volunteer.
Over the next days and weeks the City was at a standstill, wrapped in confusion and grief. I shot some film around the Armory on 25th Street which was the first place set up for the families of the missing. I also took some shots uptown at the fire house on East 85th Street near where I live. Here are the images that best express that time – a glimpse of Manhattan in the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001.
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