I have to first apologise again to all of you. I still have at least two more articles that I am working on from California. Because of the amazing images I captured and also because 9/11 is such an important subject to me, I made this article a priority. The remaining California articles are still on their way!
My morning on Friday was a very tough one. I was out enjoying all the city had to offer on Thursday night, so you can imagine that getting up for the morning rush was a bit of a tough task!
Hungover, jetlagged and exhausted, I still managed to make it out and into the packed Subways by 9am. I started my morning at 34th and Broadway and began the long trek down the centre of the island to Ground Zero. I worked on capturing images of people and Union Square was definitely the best spot for that. People having a snooze on the steps, playing chess and just generally interesting people swarmed the area.
As I arrived in the shadow of the Freedom Tower, it was high noon and it was like the lunch whistle had just gone off. Tons of construction workers were leaving the site to get a bite to eat.
My first stop was the Tribute WTC Visitor Center (http://www.tributewtc.org). It is the only place that I know of to get a ticket to the memorial on the day you would like to visit. The Visitor center has some artifacts from 9/11 that are very interesting and disturbing at the same time. Melted cutlery from the Windows on the World Restaurant, a window frame from one of the airplanes and a copy of an actual boarding pass from United Flight 93 Flight were some of the most interesting pieces.
The $20 fee included entrance to the visitor center, guided tour of the World Trades Center and a ticket for the 9/11 memorial. Originally, I was only interested in the memorial, but the guided tour was actually the most interesting and memorable part of my day. I did not know that the tour would be guided by volunteers that were directly affected by the attacks.
My guides were Nancy D’Auria and Theresa Cove. Both of their lives were severely affected by that day as Nancy lost her son and Theresa lost her husband. I think it is a fantastic idea to have these ladies and others like them to run the tours. We all know how this day affected all of us watching on Television, but to hear the firsthand accounts from these ladies was moving beyond words.
Michael D. D’Auria was the son of Nancy and was only sworn into the FDNY on May 2, 2001 after receiving 100 percent on both the written and physical tests. He worked as a chef at various restaurants in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island before he was accepted into the department. The other members of Engine Company 40 and Ladder Company 35 definitely benefited from his love of the culinary arts. Michael was one of the 343 firefighters that were killed trying to save lives on September 11.
James (Jimmy) E. Cove was a 48 year old man, husband to Theresa and a senior vice president at Aon Corp. Jimmy was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, where he worked on the 103rd Floor of the South Tower. Theresa was kind enough to share the story of Jimmy with the group I was with. The stories of signs she receives from Jimmy warmed my heart.
I would like to thank both Nancy and Theresa for sharing their stories with me. I think it is very brave of you to be sharing these with visitors to the city. I wanted to pass on a little of their stories to my readers so their memories can reach even further.
Walking through the memorial was surreal. I could not believe how beautiful it was. There were cascading pools where both towers used to stand. Surrounding each of the pools were all of the names of those lost on 9/11 engraved through metal rails.
After spending a few hours just walking around the pools and reading names, I made my way out of the memorial, only to find myself in the middle of a huge protest. As I looked around, I could not believe my eyes. Young kids with more tattoos and piercings in their face than the secluded tribal people of Papua New Guinea. I finally found out what the protest was about. They were protesting “capitalism”. This now made perfect sense.
Seeing this protest so close to ground zero was very disturbing. These people seemed like they had no respect for the memory of those lost. I was very upset and got out of there as fast as I could.
The one thing I was hoping to see in NYC was the memorial, but I was able to meet two ladies that gave me a closer look into 9/11, only a few weeks after the 10th anniversary. I was very lucky to have met Nancy and Theresa.