9/11

What happened today 10 years ago was an event that has changed the world forever. Anybody you ask knows where he or she was and what they where doing this day. But the day was even more surreal for people who spent it in New York City like me.

It is a day that I will never forget. I still believe it was the most beautiful day weather wise that I’ve ever experienced in the almost 15 years I’ve been living in New York City. I was up early that day taking a yoga class starting at 6 AM taught by Batthabhi Jois the founder of ashtanga yoga. The class took place at the Chelsea Piers on the West Side of the city. When I walked out of class I remember vivedly that I looked down south to the Twin Towers and admired the beauty of what I saw. It was New York at its best.

It was about 8 AM and the the world would change forever in 46 minuets.

I had to run back to my apartment on the East Side. I was supposed to take some pictures of the Prada store in Soho which was still in construction and then take a plane to Italy to shoot video sequences that would be displayed on screens at the store after its completion.

While I’m at home getting ready the phone rings. My sister tells me that a plane hit one of the towers. I turn the TV on and only one channel is working (the television antenna was on the tower). Then the second plane hits. I’m looking at my cameras. I should be down there? But what about the job? The cell phone system had broken down already and I was not able to reach my client. I’m trying to call my parents on my land line. I talk to my mother and while I’m talking to her the first tower collapses. I will never forget that moment. I was in total disbelief, all I was thinking was “That can’t be real!”

I knew the area around the towers really well. The first four years in NY I had been living only a block away from them. Every morning I would see thousands of people go to work there. I looked at my cameras again and then realized that I would not be able to go. I was to overwhelmed with what just had happened.

Others did go and put themselves in the line of fire. My friend Lyle Owerko for example who shot the to me most amazing picture that day of the second plane hitting the South Tower. It ended up being the cover of Time Magazine and will be a photograph forever remembered in history.

The image for today’s blog post is an image that I shot a few days before the attacks but it is dear to me since it is the last image I shot of the towers. There is also a story to the image. I wrote about it a few years ago on this blog but here it is again:

“It is a beautiful Indian summer day. One of these almost perfect days in New York. A few clouds in the sky, low humidity and neither too warm or too cold. I have been outside all day enjoying the beautiful weather. New York is a magical place days like today. Early afternoon I make my way over to peer 63. Peer 63 is on the level of 23rd Street in Manhattan all the way to the west side of the island.

A friend of mine, Bill Hedberg lives on that peer. The right description would actually be he lives in the peer. Bill had his midlife crises. He was frustrated. He used to be a modern dancer and has been a Gryrotonics teacher for about 15 years. Gyrotonics uses like Pilates special machines to stretch and tone the body. Bill was tired to spend all his money for rent. He met the owner of peer 63 who promised him free rent if he would find a way to live on the peer. His apartment/Gyrotonics studio in the peer was originally a freight container He went ahead and spent $ 7000. — and 8 months of 12-14 hour working days to clean out the container, cut out the crossbeams and put in a floor, red carpeting, walls, big mirrors and plumbing. He told me that the construction on the place almost killed him. He working throughout the winter and cut out all these heavy metal beams. But when all the work was done he had a free apartment in New York City.

He uses his place also to build Gyrotonic machines and has four or five machines in his place to teach dancers and anybody else who wanted to stretch and strengthen their bodies. Bill has a girlfriend he very much is in love with and today is her birthday. To surprise her he invited lots of friends and asked these guys who have this tuck boat that is docked at the peer to take all of us out for a little cruise. When I get there in the early afternoon everybody is waiting already and a few minuets later the boat takes of.

We make our way down the Hudson River. As I said before it is a gorgeous day. The sun is high up in the sky and there are boats on the water all around us. Of course I brought a camera since I never leave the house without one. My camera of choice today day is a 30 years old Polaroid Land Camera. I am shooting positiv/negativ Polaroid’s. You basically take an image, pull the Polaroid, wait 30 seconds to develop it and peel off a developed image. Now you have an instant Polaroid image in b/w but also a negative that you have to put into water and later can use to print from. I have a great time taking pictures. The weather, the sun, the skyscrapers and all the boats in the foreground. We are getting to the southern tip of Manhattan. Now we can see the entire southern Manhattan skyline. I keep on shooting. What an amazing place I think, the light, the water, the skyline and the sun reflecting in the World Trade Center.

Today is the 8th of September 2001; I am taking the last images of the Twin Towers that I will ever take. After we get back to the peer I am still not done with the day. I have all my negatives in a little bucket full of water. But what will I do with the bucket until I get home to clean them and hang them up to dry? I ask my friend Bill if I could leave them with him to come back in a day or two to get them what is not a problem.

I got busy for a couple of days, then 9/11 happened. The area around 23rd street was sealed off for weeks. I finally get to Bill’s place four weeks later. Most of the water had evaporated, most negatives destroyed. When I got home I was able to save one of them. But because the negative was so long in the water it got heavily damaged. But to me this is the amazing thing about it. The World Trade Center was gone but here is this image of the towers that survived but trough its damage in a certain way mirrors the destruction that followed a few days after it was taken. It is a very meaningful picture to me since it is the last time I photographed the Twin Towers. Not many people have seen it; it is time to share it with the world.”

Story originally written for this blog on 01-12-2008
 
 
 
 
 
 

“9/11” Manhattan/New York City/World Trade Center 09-08-01

Please check out my website at carstenfleck.com

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