Never Forget, 12 September 2011


Hass500CM NYC TMax100 WTC_Cross01B

As with most folks who have witnessed historic events, I can still recall quite well where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the news about the 9/11 attacks ten years ago. As if it weren’t ironic enough that I was attending architecture school at the time, along with about a hundred of my classmates I was attending my building science class – Introduction to High Rise Technology. The dean of the architecture school made the announcement about the attacks and cancelled classes for the duration of the day. I followed a crowd back to someone’s dorm or apartment and watched the news coverage of the events, and though both towers (and the Pentagon) had already been hit, we all witnessed the collapse of both towers live. Rather chilling, that was.

Perhaps even more surreal was my trek back to my apartment – my school (UIC) is in the near South Side, I lived in Uptown, on the North Side. While it was rather impressive that the Loop had been entirely evacuated within a few hours of the attacks (at the time, there was great confusion as to how many planes had been hijacked, the number of targets, etc.), travel became a bit problematic, as the CTA had stopped all buses and trains running through the Loop, and no taxis were available, either, since everyone had been evacuated. I had only been in Chicago for a few weeks at that point, but it was already enough to make the utter stillness in the Loop seem quite unsettling. As a result, I had to walk through the Loop to the near North Side, then hopped in a cab back to my apartment. I spent the rest of the evening watching the news and calling my relatives and out-of-town friends to let them know that I was fine and that there weren’t any attacks in Chicago (again, there was a bit of confusion at the time, and there were serious speculations that Chicago was a target), and also to confirm that my brother (who was living in DC at the time and was involved in a small engineering project at the Pentagon) was also fine (he was…he wasn’t at the Pentagon that day).

Of course, over the next few days, things went more or less back to normal. Sure, I did note that the CTA started having more K-9 security personnel riding the trains, but otherwise, little had changed. Oh sure, the next time I got on a plane, I noticed the TSA for the first time, and there were the new security announcements and the Afghan War, but in terms of day-to-day activities, it seemed that little had changed. I was also a bit dismayed when the so-called “Truthers”, i.e. those who believe the US government (or various other shadowy conspiracies) was somehow complicit in (or worse, had been the sole cause of) the destruction of the towers. Oddly enough, the fact that these folks are still free to disseminate their wacky theories should serve as proof enough that we’re not living the horribly totalitarian nightmare they claim Fedgov is trying to create with the various new security agencies and regulations. I suppose logic doesn’t actually matter in these sorts of situations. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinions.

Later on, I also had the privilege of working on one of the competition entries for the WTC Memorial, one proposed by Wilhelm Borntraeger, a local Chicago architect. Obviously, it didn’t win the competition, but it was an interesting proposal, and not a bad summer job.

And that’s about it. Not quite eventful as for others, particularly anyone living in NYC, but it was a certainly not uneventful, either. Certainly, it won’t be easy to forget.

[Regarding the photo, I shot it in the winter of 2005 when I visited NYC. I shot it using my Hasselblad 500C and Kodak TMax 100 film. In some ways, I prefer this cross to the more elaborate memorial that recently opened on Ground Zero; it’s a much simpler, of course, but it also has a very visceral connection to the site, being a salvaged piece of structural steel from the Towers themselves.]


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