As a native New Yorker, the World Trade Center has been a familiar landmark on the Manhattan skyline for most of my life. On September 11th, I watched from my window as the tragedy unfolded. I have no words to express the deep sadness, trauma and shock watching the towers collapse. I have tried to explain to people that seeing this on television is in no way comparable to watching the horror with your own eyes. We were led to believe these beautiful towers were invincible; especially after the terrorist bombing in 1993. I worked on the animation for a training video to clarify how the Office of Emergency Management, NY Police Department, NY Fire Department, Hospitals, and Emergency Medical Services would coordinate in the event of a catastrophe. That was in 1989.
Were we caught unaware? Did the explosion of Flight 800 give these people the concept for mass destruction? Why should any commercial airplane have an on-off switch on the transponder? Why can't the plane builders redesign the cockpit to have no entrance to the passenger seating area whatsoever? Why is there no system for retinal recognition at all the airports, train stations, public stadiums, arenas, etc. If we have the technology, why aren't we implementing it?
All of these questions do not solve the problem. Our sense of security has been shaken to the core. When I've mourned the loss of family or friends, I am compelled to find photographs to help remember....I have been photographing the skyline for years, by land, by sea, and by air. I keep seeing the images of the towers falling, one by one, imploding as they were designed to do- since toppling towers could have caused even more damage. The huge plume of smoke, dust, and debris, rose high up in the air....heading south towards Brooklyn Heights and Staten Island. Yet I am still in shock they are gone....
Thursday morning around 2:00 AM, the wind shifted north. I cannot describe the horrific smell of burning steel, cement, papers, wood, asbestos, and thousands of people being cremated, crushed, pulverized. I could not sleep for days....I could not eat or rest or think. I could barely breathe....something in the smoke felt like a boulder was on my chest and my lungs, eyes, nose, mouth, and throat were burning and irritated. I still can't seem to sleep for more than a nap without waking up and checking the skyline again.
I continued going through thousands of slides, driven to remember how majestic and beautiful these towers have been to grace our skyline. I know that editing and compiling this series of images made me realize that the World Trade Center will live on in my memory and my heart....I have been told by many people how they are comforted by downloading some of the free screensaver backgrounds.
We all need to remember what we have lost, what knowledge we have gained, and what we hope to do in the future to rebuild. I pray for all the families and friends who have lost loved ones so violently, so suddenly, so horribly. I pray for the families who have lost their brave rescue workers; running into the flaming buildings to help save lives. I pray for all of us who still don't feel safe at all, afraid of what will be next....
Updated 9/13/01 7:26:41 PM
First of all, I would like to thank all of you who have sent me e-mails after downloading the World Trade Center screensavers. I know that selecting, scanning, and posting these images has been helpful to me in healing and mourning this unbelievable tragedy. In some small way, I realize I might be helping others too. This has provided great impetus for me to continue adding images everyday of the Twin Towers to the mri2000 website. I want to remember how beautiful and majestic these towers were....
I also want to extend a very special thanks to all of the wonderful companies in New York City that provide travel by boat and helicopter around Manhattan. Many of these business have suffered large financial losses during this time. I thank you all,
Circle Line, New York Waterway, World Yacht, Spirit Cruises, Bateaux New York, Liberty Helicopters, the Staten Island Ferry, the Marriott Hotel at the World Financial Center, for helping me to capture some of these photographs of wonderful changing light and seasons on our Hudson River, East River, New York Harbor and airways. [Even when it's freezing cold (50 below zero), these boats and ferries are in operation. The day of the tragedy at the World Trade Center, every boat nearby pulled up to Battery Park and brought people across to New Jersey for safety. I commend all of you in your efforts to help....]
I thank all of the wonderful people at the Hudson River Cafe and Windows on the World who have made dining in the World Financial area special and memorable.
L. A. Bernstein