I still remember what I was doing on 9/11: it was my first day at Sixth Form College and my friend and I heard the news on the car radio after classes. When I got home, my mam was standing in front of the television, watching as events unfolded.
That day was such a pivotal moment in modern history, it’s impossible to visit New York and not feel its impact, even in the quiet streets around the city, away from the site of the World Trade Center. Each time we visited our local diner in Hell’s Kitchen, we passed a neighbourhood firehouse. It took me several days to notice the 9/11 memorial: a simple carved plaque bearing the names and images of all the firefighters from that station who were lost. It’s impossible not to stop and think when you catch sight of something like that so unexpectedly.
We visited Ground Zero after returning from the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Wandering through the streets of Lower Manhattan, exploring Wall Street and the Financial District, we came across the site unexpectedly.
Much of the area is still undergoing construction work, a sign of the city’s ongoing recovery. The memorial has slowly taken shape and the twin reflecting pools that stand in the footprints of the original towers are a powerful symbol of loss and renewal. The simple nature of the design makes them all the more striking, and they are grand in scale. Watching the water pour down into the base of the pool is incredibly moving. It’s heart-breaking to walk around the memorial, reading the names of all those who died, carved into the walls.
As we stood by the memorial, a woman came and stood next to us. She pointed to a name on the memorial and told her husband: “That was my classmate.”
I didn’t take a lot of photographs at Ground Zero; it didn’t feel right. But I had to capture the new One World Trade Center: the glass façade glinting in the afternoon sunlight was beautiful.