“Never Forget”

Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of 9/11

“We Will Never Forget” ©2001 Alan Sislen

8:46 am.  September 11, 2001.  A plane crashed into the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City; and then a second plane. That morning, I had planned to take the 10:30 AM train from my home in New Jersey into the station below the WTC, arriving at 11:15 AM, in time to meet a number of former colleagues for lunch in Chinatown. Needless to say, that train never departed.

The WTC had been my commuting destination every morning for many years.  Like hundreds of millions of others, I sat in disbelief as the unimaginable events and aftermath of 9/11 unfolded.  

On September 18th, one week after 9/11, I was in midtown NYC. The city was in mourning, still hoping beyond hope that survivors would be found. The telephone poles and storefronts were covered with pictures of the lost and missing.

“Missing” ©2001 Alan Sislen

26 days after 9/11, on October 7, 2001, I first visited the streets around the WTC, and only then did the reality of 9/11 begin to sink in.  It was a chilly Sunday morning. The public was told the air was safe to breathe, but I had my doubts. The strong smell of burning electrical wires and smoldering debris still filled the air, and many of the workers, soldiers and police were wearing facemasks. 

I began making photographs of the area that morning, and continued for many, many years thereafter.  What started out as a few casual photographs of an unimaginable tragedy became a 20 year journey, experiencing through my camera the devastation, the mourning, the remembrances, the memorials and the rebirth.

5 years ago, on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, I had an exhibit of many of my images at Multiple Exposures Gallery in the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Here is a link to the photographs in that exhibit https://alansislenphotography.com/galleries/97gallerysetexhibitions/never-forget/

Hopefully, these images will help us to Never Forget the morning of 9/11/01 that affected so many, and the sorrow, the hope and the transformation that followed. Photographs can be memories; they can tell a story; they can capture beauty; they can make you think. While there is no beauty in my photographs, they do help us Never Forget.

I’ve also included a link to a previous blog post that discusses three very special photographs that were part of the exhibit https://www.alansislenphotography.com/blog/2014/05/21/some-projects-just-take-longer/ .

“Tribute in Lights” ©2002 Alan Sislen

12 thoughts on ““Never Forget””

  1. Hi, Alan: Wow, its been a while! It was good to read your post. ThoughtI shoud mention, although you probably know, that there is a “Tower of Light” event here in DC tonight and tomorrow night. The lights are sited at the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial but can be seen all over DC. I was down scouting at the mall tonight and could see it easily.

  2. A very remarkable series of immensely powerful images Alan. You were steadfast in your determination to produce such an astonishingly moving and comprehensive document on this giant human tragedy.
    You have my huge admiration for doing so and I’m sure many others will share that admiration of you and your emotionally charged images.
    Bravo to you Alan from all those lost, no doubt gratitude for never letting us forget.

  3. Not only wonderful documentary images but beautiful photography as well. I’d like to see these as a book to pass along to those who weren’t there or too young to remember. Thanks for sharing these incredible works.
    Peter Dunner

    1. Peter, thanks! I’ve thought about a self-published book many times. Might be the perfect project for the 25th anniversary. I have hundreds of additional photographs that have never been seen.

  4. Alan, Yours is a touching powerful immersion into the place’s soul and how it touches many of us. Thanks for sharing these images and recollections. Craig

  5. Alan, the images are really powerful and they remind us of a story of both sadness and resilience. Thanks for sharing and I agree, you should publish the images as a book.

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