On the fifteenth anniversary of the attacks on 9/11 in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, the question of how to remember the events of that infamous day is most appropriate.
Remembering is a spiritual discipline in the Bible: “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Remembering also applies to history, and especially to difficult experiences in one’s past: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15). In the New Testament, Jesus commanded his disciples to remember his death on the Cross when we take communion: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
How should we remember 9/11? Many people do so by visiting the 9/11 Memorial on the site of the two World Trade Towers that fell. I have been there many times, especially when friends ask me to take them into Manhattan. I confess that I usually am saddened when I am there, and not solely due to the pain of remembering those who lost their lives. Indeed, I have been most perturbed by the crowds, who often treat the experience as just another tourist stop. Shedding somberness, selfies are taken by people who laugh and run across the complex.
In my photographic attempt to remember and pay tribute those who are lost, I therefore try to ignore the crowds. One way is to get in close to the memorial:
Another way is less direct. The two pools symbolize the footprints of the towers and the water flowing down into the abyss the senselessness of the deaths of so many innocent lives. The rainbow is a symbol of hope in the midst of disaster, and so this shot not only acknowledges the pain of the past, but the anticipation that something positive can be hoped for in the future:
But I feel that it is best to get off-site and document other tributes in memory of those who lost their lives on 9/11. This photograph was taken at the lesser known Liberty State Park 9/11 Memorial from across the river in New Jersey. The bright light streaks (sun reflections) remind me of the missing Towers and people in a contrasting way to the dark pools.
A few years ago, in Greenwich Village, I came across a small 9/11 memorial in which painted tiles were attached to a fence. These small memorials, created by children and adults, powerfully evoked emotions I felt, even years after the attacks.
The United States was not alone in feeling the pain of 9/11. People worldwide expressed solidarity and support. I was surprised to find this memorial in Padova, a small city just outside of Venice:
To remember is to care, to reflect is to honor, and to recall is to reaffirm the infinite worth and value of every human life and soul.