Like all Americans old enough to remember the events of 9/11/2001, I have a very vivid and raw memory of that morning. That day would come to define some of my life's most important decisions; would drive me to a career in public service and safety.
The 9/11 memorial and museum only opened in the past few years, and while I have seen the outdoor memorial ponds before, I never had a chance to visit the museum until this most recent trip to New York City.
I was a bit conflicted about taking photographs in such hallowed ground.
September 11th isn't a tourist attraction. The artifacts and memories captured in this museum mark millions of lives changed in the span of a few terrible minutes. I don't want to disrespect the memory of the over 3,000 innocent people killed on that day by turning 9/11 into a photography spectacle.
But after a few minutes in the museum, my opinion changed. September 11th was the most terrible of days, a day that we cannot forget. Walking through that museum reopened the emotions from that day that I had long since repressed. I was flooded with sobering memories of what happens when we become complacent and when freedom is not allowed to prosper around the world.
Recognizing that many viewers to my website will never have a chance to visit the museum in NYC, I decided to make a handful of photographs that could help convey the emotions and experience I had walking through the museum.
I cried twice in the museum. Once while looking at / listening to a selection of voicemail messages left by passengers of those doomed flights to their loved ones. People who left a final message, knowing their fate. I crumbled under the idea of ever having to do something so brave. My second breakdown happened in front of a projection of "missing posters" hung by friends and family searching for their lost relatives. Many of these posters carried a deeply personal message, and my heart broke for every family that had to write a sign like that. One particular sign that pulled me was from a daughter looking for her daddy.
I could not photograph these things. I could not bring myself to make artwork from the pain of those families. Instead, I chose to photograph objects that were more symbolic of the tragedy.
May we never forget.