September 11, 2009

In memory

In memory

When I was visiting my youngest sister, Urban Sophisticate, in Big City Like No Other last spring, I noticed a black-and-white photo that dangled from a ribbon in the tiny apartment.

“That’s my 9/11 memorial,” Urban Sophisticate explained.

I looked back at the wall, confused. The frame held a picture she had taken in 1998 of the Eiffel Tower. A lovely photo, but clearly, the wrong building. Not even the right continent.

“Yeah, I know,” she said. “The thing is — I had taken that photo, and I didn’t think it was very good, and then I decided that if I got it enlarged, it would be a nice photo. So I got it blown up at the photo shop in the World Trade Center, but then I never got around to hanging it up.”

On September 11, 2001, she was still uptown when the first plane hit the building. Her then-husband, Hockey Player Turned Stock Trader, was already at work: he was caught in the chaos and flying debris and black smoke when the buildings imploded, and he was missing for hours during a terrifying, confusing day, but he survived.

In the days after the terrorist attack, Urban Sophisticate said, photos were blowing around Ground Zero, mixed in with debris and thick, horrible fumes. Photos from the photo shop, I guess, or photos that people had had in their offices. Photos that had been taken in happier times. “People were picking up photos, trying to identify the people in them and send them to the families.”

And of course, everywhere, people were hanging up photos. They were searching morgues and hospitals, with photos in hands. Photos of loved ones, missing daughters and husbands and cousins, were being taped up to fences, to makeshift memorials.

It was months later that Urban Sophisticate found the photo that had been developed at the World Trade Center. It was still in the original bag, with the name of the shop on the side. She’d tucked it in her purse, probably, as she walked through the World Trade Center, hurrying as usual through a building that she’d strode through many times before, on a normal day when she was just thinking about the story she was reporting — and where she might stop to eat on the way home.

My sister took out the photo and – thinking about where she was the day she picked it up – put the picture in a frame, and hung it on her wall.


Kris said...

Where did she find it

jo(e) said...

It was in her own apartment.

Lilian said...

My memorial would have had to be related to the Sbarro pizza place in the basement of the WTC, not far from the NJ trains stairs. My husband's family (he was then my boyfriend) had a meal there back in 1993, after we had been to the top of one of towers.

I also spend many hours at the Border's bookstore on the street level in 1997 as I waited for my parents to visit the tower. We ate at the Sbarro later too... Sigh.

I guess I feel lucky (and also very sad) to have been up there twice, in 1993 and 1996. I just LOVED those buildings and I couldn't believe it when they were gone. I never even saw them collapse live because when i found out about what had happened, they were gone. I just couldn't believe it. And I had just found out I was pregnant. It was a terrible moment... sigh.

The thought of those photos being found everywhere is heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...


Songbird said...


Magpie said...

i totally understand that feeling.

my office buys transitcheks for the employees. we mailed our september check several days before 9/11 - to the world trade center. when the transitcheks didn't come, we realized what had happened. the check probably turned to dust. and to this day, every time i sign the check for the transitcheks, i remember.