Waters: 9/11’s biggest impact in candid snapshots of those lost

In the week leading up to the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania, there appeared to be wall-to-wall coverage focusing on the event.

In the week leading up to the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania, there appeared to be wall-to-wall coverage focusing on the event.

That rubbed some the wrong way.

But why?

In Western society we mark milestones and a 10th anniversary has always been a big one—enough time has passed to look back with a more critical eye but not so much that memory of the event begins to dim.

It will be hard for the events of Sept. 11, 2001 to dim in anyone’s memory—in part because we now live with the consequences every day.

From the way we are governed, to the way we travel, from who sees our electronic communications to the taxes we pay, life after 9/11 is not the same as it was up to the day before the planes struck the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field nears Shanksville, Pennsylvania and 2,977 people from more than 50 countries died.

Up to Sunday, the site of the former World Trade Centre towers in New York, was an unofficial memorial to those who died. To mark the 10th anniversary, the official memorial was dedicated at the site.

But as powerful as the two cascading pools in the footprints of the towers are, with the names of those who died etched around them, there is another, smaller memorial located just across the street that is just as powerful.

Set up in 2006 by the association that represents the families of those who died, and located in a former deli that fed rescue workers in the days after the attacks, the Tribute WTC Visitor Centre is a small but deeply moving display that gives visitors a heart-achingly more personal account of that fateful day 10 years ago.

I did not visit New York until eight years after the events of 9/11. By that time, Ground Zero was a building site. People still stood and looked but by then it had lost a lot of the raw, emotional power it had in the days, weeks and months after the towers fell.

But inside the tribute centre, the power of loss hits you full on like a freight train rumbling through your soul. To stand, in silence, and stare at a wall covered with thousands of small, candid snapshots of people, punctuated by a favourite ball cap, a well-worn T-shirt or a hard-won diploma, is to feel the loss like a 3,000-pound weight pressing down on you.

When I stood there I cried. I couldn’t help it. I had my camera in hand but I couldn’t take a picture. It felt disrespectful.

I would challenge anyone who has stood in that spot and contemplated the loss and the changes wrought on the world as a result, to say a week of news stories about what happened to them, and those who survived, is overkill.

Alistair Waters is the Capital News’ assistant editor.

 

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