Read an Excerpt
By Cliff Wassmann
Born and raised in New Jersey I watched in horror, as did all Americans on September 11, 2001. Like everyone else I also felt the need to go back and help. Not being a construction worker or having any other skill that was particularly needed there wasn't anything I could do but watch helplessly over the next six months as the World Trade Center site was excavated. During that time thousands made pilgrimages to the site, each for these own reasons, so many in fact that the City of New York set up special viewing platforms and with timed entry to handle the crowds.
Although I am a photographer whose specialty is photographing ancient ruins and sacred sites around the world, I felt no desire to photograph this site and add to the nation's collection of destructive images that came out of the attack. But then something changed.
On the sixth month anniversary a coalition of city leaders, architects and lighting engineers came together with the simple concept of installing spotlights near the site that would, for 30 days only, recreate the towers in beams of light. When the 88 lights that formed the new Towers of Light were turned on that first night I realized that it marked a turning point in the painful process that started on 9/11 and a now a compelling new, more hopeful image had arisen from the destruction. It was now time to go back and photograph this new sacred place.
By the time I had made the travel arrangements only 4 nights remained for the memorial light display and they were only illuminated until 10:30 each night, which meant that I could only photograph them from one locationeach night. The first night was clear and I was able to capture a beautiful image of the massive beams rising into infinity over downtown. It was a spectacular site to see. From Liberty State Park in New Jersey where I chose to shoot that first night the view was incredible and hundreds of people came down just to stare across the river at the twin beams. There were also scores of other professional and amateur photographers shooting the display. I wasn't expecting to create an image any different than that of the thousands of other photographers that sought to preserve the event.
The next several nights brought clouds and rain, which made it difficult to capture the ethereal beams. On the final night the weather cleared a bit and the City of New York announced that the lights would be illuminated until they faded into the dawn. Things still were not going well. The rains had cleared the skies so much that the beams of light appeared very weak. After trying several locations without success, I decided to go to one final location, a location that held a unique memory for me.
For the turn of the century we had celebrated in Times Square, and that first morning of 2000 I wanted a special shot. With the city asleep we drove downtown, past the deserted financial district and the giant twin towers and across the Brooklyn Bridge. For my Millennium picture I wanted the classic view of these 20th century icons rising over the bridge that was completed over a century ago in 1883. A bridge now to the 21st century. I got the shot, added it to my collection and forgot about it. I couldn't imagine that only 21 months later I would watch this view change forever.
It was about 1:00 AM by the time I got to that location again. The lights of the bridge sparkled and reflected in the water below. And where the twin towers once stood the twin beams rose silently in the sky. A few people milled about but soon left as clouds and rain started falling. I was about to leave too when something magic began to happen in the sky. The mist in the air gave the lights something to illuminate and they began to glow brightly. Fast moving low clouds passed through the beams creating various shapes that quickly appeared and disappeared. For a fleeting moment while my camera shutter was open, a faint heart-shaped spot formed on the clouds over the city.
The rain grew heavier so I left and drove back across the bridge. The road home took me right past where the spotlights were installed. Despite the rain the area was filled with people standing under the lights that appeared much different when viewed from so close. Like curtains they shot straight up into the sky. Looking up you could see birds circling through them. And falling down over the tear drenched faces of the crowd the rain fell, each drop glowing with the lights? illumination.
While another Towers of Light are not planned to be part of whatever permanent memorial is ultimately built on the site, they will forever be remembered as the turning point in the painful process that started on September 11, 2001. During wartime cities were told to turn down the lights and what does New York do? It sets up the brightest lights in the country, a beacon that could be seen from 20 miles away! It was, at once, a defiant gesture and a spiritual recognition of the lives lost.
And we will remember.
* * * *
A LETTER FROM JOAN
My Dear One,
We all experienced the horror of that terrible day, September 11, 2001, when Humanity's enemies set out to make a statement to the world. Those twisted beings believed their awful plans would defeat freedom.
How wrong they were. How wrong they are!
This Tribute is a compilation, a reprint of Empowered Parent posts during the 14 days following 9/11. I hope it will serve a good purpose to remind us how we felt in that moment and those that followed. I know we are changed; I know we have better values today.
This Tribute shows how we came through the fear, the terror, the worry for our children and other loved ones, and illustrates the Power we hold dear and will NOT easily release to any enemy...
Let me tell you about the book cover. It is a spectacular night shot--I received special permission from the photographer Cliff Wassmann to use it. This photograph is truly unique because it was raining, and while other photographers left, Wassmann remained to capture this amazing picture. The Light Memorial goes up, up and then spreads out upon some low clouds, shaping the light into a heart!
Thank you with all my heart, Cliff, for the privilege of using your work.
With Love and great respect,
And so we begin...