From Zero to heroes - After September 11, 2001

Story by Jack Foley

SIX months on from the devastating, world-altering events of September 11, the images from that day remain etched in the minds of anyone (or everyone) who witnessed them. For me, in particular, the sense of loss is as great now as it was then, while the extent of the devastation has been brought that much closer from having been in New York.

I have stood over Ground Zero and observed what is left of the Twin Towers from one of the viewing platforms established by New York officials as a means of paying tribute to those who lost their lives. The pain, sadness, suffering and grief has never been better described than in the words of those who have penned personal messages on the wooden sideboards; while tributes - floral, photographic and written - continue to line the streets surrounding the disaster zone.

You cannot walk past a fire station without sparing a thought for those who perished, while in Times Square itself (in January) a giant, neon-lit image of a heartbroken fireman gazes down upon the millions of crowds who continue to flock through it each day. The events of September 11 will never, and should never, be forgotten.

London, praised so highly by New Yorkers for the support it showed in the aftermath, continues to remember the events which took place on that fateful day with two new exhibitions - opening on Tuesday, March 5 and Wednesday, March 6.

The latter of the two - entitled After September 11: Images From Ground Zero - can be seen at the Museum of London and has been put together using the photographs of Joel Meyerowitz, a New Yorker who had spent the past 15 years photographing the view from his downtown studio of the World Trade Center buildings.

Meyerowitz had spent the summer prior to September developing his collection of prints of the Twin Towers in his new studio on Cape Cod and was devastated to return to New York to find that it had all disappeared.

He subsequently captured the events which followed the attacks and his exhibition features 26 prints taken during the day and at night, including rescue workers on site, cranes, piles of smouldering, twisted metal and buildings decorated with the American flag - the symbol of defiance which remains in place even today.

The larger-than-life size images are as haunting as they are fascinating and pay tribute to the spirit which existed among New Yorkers to get through that day.

And it is the rescue workers who form the focus of the second exhibition - Faces of Ground Zero - which can be viewed at The Royal Exchange from March 5.

Compiled by Life photographer Joe McNally, the exhibition homes in on the personal stories he observed after spending a fortnight capturing the survivors, police, emergency workers and families of the victims post September 11 (firefighter Louis Cacchioli is pictured right).

Shot using a 12ft by 16ft polaroid camera against a plain white background, McNally has selected 58 out of the 150-plus 40ins by 80ins full-length colour portraits, and set them against carefully selected quotes from his subjects.

It is an intensely personal perspective, bringing viewers a human insight into the mind-set of all New Yorkers following the terrorist atrocities. Put together with After September 11, it provides a pretty definitive insight into what it must have been like to live in the Big Apple during those moments and days. Expect huge amounts of interest to follow both exhibitions...

Faces of Ground Zero, The Royal Exchange, Bank, EC3. Tel: 020 7623 3857.

After September 11: Images From Ground Zero, Museum of London, London Wall, EC2. Tel: 020 7600 3699. Admission free.
Nearest Tube: Barbican, St Paul's, Moorgate, Bank.

Other really useful links...

Joel Meyerowitz official site, click here

Joe McNally official site, click here