Dec 28, 2012

9/11 Beacon Memorial

I've always wanted to photograph the 9/11 beacon memorial.  I remember being particularly inspired by the opening scene from Spike Lee's movie The 25th Hour, which focused on the beacon lights from different angles for the first several minutes.

 Though I hadn't been home the past several anniversaries I was finally able to make it this time around.  Throughout the year my work for Lifetouch took me to several places in New York and New Jersey that had great views of the Manhattan skyline and the Freedom Tower construction site.  It's been interesting to witness the slow but steady progress on the tower at different points in the year.  So this year I decided to spend Sept. 11 revisiting a couple of these spots and photograph the beacon memorial from different vantage points.

My first stop was a cliffside park in Weehawken, NJ, a ways upriver from the World Trade Center.  It was a relatively quiet scene, though the sidewalk was lined with all sorts of photographers.  Some had iPhones and point-and-shoots, others had tripods and enormous telephoto lenses.  For the most part people were silent, but here and there you could hear quiet conversation.

I spent about 15-20 minutes photographing and taking in the scene, and then drove down to Liberty State Park in Jersey City to get a closer vantage point.  This was a very different atmosphere.  I arrived around 9:30, a short while before the parking lot's usual closing time, though you wouldn't know it that night.  It felt more like the Fourth of July, especially when I noticed the ice cream truck stationed right outside the park entrance.  Inside the park I found myself in a sea of tripod-wielding photographers, each one fighting for a spot on the river.  The longer I stayed the more uncomfortable I felt, finding myself somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between somber visitors and enthusiastic photographers.  On my way out of the park I noticed a group of older visitors posing for pictures in front of a piece of metal from the Twin Towers that had been turned into one of several memorials at the park.  I tried not to judge, figuring everyone copes and commemorates tragedy differently, but when they put their coffee cups on the piece of the building so they could review their pictures I had seen enough.

So the trip was not at all what I had planned, but I think I managed to find a few moments at least to reflect and photograph some nice (if not at all original) frames of the memorial.

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