Bearing Witness

September 7, 2011

Posted by Jay

I recently put together a small book in memory of September 11, 2001. This the foreword to the book, and some of the images. I’d like to share this with you.

All of us were forever marked by the obscenity of that day. Denial, depression, anger, reactive symptoms of death, all took their toll. It wasn’t the focused fury of December 7th, 1941, or the sadness of November 22, 1963. Though I lived through all those dates: I was 10 years old during Pearl Harbor and 32 when Kennedy was assassinated.

This time, when the twin towers came down, I was 70 years old and concerned about my daughter Amanda, who was only 8. Though you may be fearless in youth, once you have a child, you worry a lot. All parents know that.

Two weeks after 9/11, still numb, depressed, and disconnected (as we all were), I had to go to ground zero. I took my camera but I had no idea what I was going to see, do or photograph. I just had to be there; to bear witness to what had happened and was happening.

This is a record of some of what I saw.

It’s been almost 10 years now, and I feel I must do this book. It’s dedicated to all those who are in it and all those who are no longer with us. I felt a kinship with all those I photographed that day, as we all feel a kinship with those who died that day.

People have asked if I lost anyone I knew that day.

My answer is no; I lost them all.

Click here to view the images.

— Jay

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15 Responses to Bearing Witness

  • Jay,

    The world shared America”s grief.

    If anything was to come from that obscenity on the the lives of regular, family loving, people like yourself, and my family, is that it strengthened our collective resolve that any individual, or a small group of fanatical cowards, has the right to try and force their twisted form of hate, and what is essentially ignorance, on the world; and we must unite as family to say stop, go away, you will not, and can not destroy our values, our democratic way of life, we will resist you, we will fight you, you will never, never win!

    Kel Geddes, September 7, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Reply
  • Thank you, Jay!
    Even your words are great, but again pictures can tell more, than thousand words: the faces of all the individuals mirror the deep feelings we all (worldwide) have in mind by trying to realize this catastrophe!
    I feel very close too to your statements!

    Kurt-Michael Westermann, September 8, 2011 at 5:08 am | Reply
  • I’ve been waiting for a new post checking out almost every day and you captured those faces (and place) your great way, thanks for sharing Jay,

    filippo rancan, September 8, 2011 at 6:19 am | Reply
  • Magnificent work Jay. A fitting tribute. I live the UK and I was at work at the time and still remember watching events unfold over the internet. Walking around the office it seemed everyone was struck dumb one minute and bursting to get words out the next. It was hard to believe it was all real. I saw shock, anger, despair passing across the faces of the people I worked with. Most of the faces were filled with questions: how could this happen? what could anyone possibly hope to gain by doing this? what happens now? I see those faces all over again after looking at your images and it all seems as though it happened yesterday.

    Ed Sweetman, September 8, 2011 at 7:09 am | Reply
  • Jay,

    You put it so succinctly and well: “All of us were forever marked by the obscenity of that day.” Yes, obscenity is a perfect word, and I can and will never forget watching live (on TV here in MT) as the 2nd tower got hit, and then they collapsed. It is seared into my brain forever.

    Your portraits capture the horror and mostly the bewilderment and disbelief that we all felt that day as observers, the “What the hell is happening here?” feeling as reality didn’t make sense.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Pat Downs (we met long ago when I was at Maine Workshops, and i have loved your work since. Cheers.)

    Patrick Downs, September 8, 2011 at 10:01 am | Reply
  • Jay, As always you have brought us more than portraits, more than images. The fear, disbelief, sadness and wondering about the future are all there, in the eyes and faces of these who are trying to take in the truth of what happened there on that day. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Denise Beverly, September 8, 2011 at 10:17 am | Reply
  • The sheer disbelief & consternation etched upon the faces of those who witnessed this monsterous act is tangible. Their expression mirrors the abhoration experienced globally. The viewer shares in the outrage & sorrow permeating the atmosphere. Compelling images.

    Wendy Gould, September 8, 2011 at 10:26 am | Reply
  • All the emotions I felt on that day I see in those photos. Powerful stuff. Thank you Jay.

    Scott Engel, September 8, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Reply
  • You had me in tears before I even opened the link. I am a mother of a two year old Handsome Son. My world changed the day he was born. I was moved by your words and your photos were breathtaking. Thank you.

    Amanda, September 9, 2011 at 1:17 am | Reply
  • I would love to see your pictures, I have been watching 911 all week on TV, I feel for the familys that lost loved ones. Thanks for sharing your work.

    Cory Heidtman, September 10, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Reply
  • I have little to add to commentaries above. These portraits, Jay, speak louder than those images, certainly spectacular, of the impact of planes into the twin towers, their collapse or the debris field that results.
    Your pictures show, looking aside, the most profound effects of this horror; those that mark a life or a soul forever – even for somebody, who lived that from another continent.
    This book, when it shall appear, unless I’m mistaken, will mark this date. It will, I guess, one of the masterful lessons of photojournalism. Already – who knows! – a classic.
    Thanks for bearing witness, Jay, and in sympathy for all victims died, as they, still alive, whose lives are forever – and unnecessarily – broken.

    WAUMAN Marc, September 13, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Reply
  • The emotion of that day will never change for those of us that lived through it. I can’t imagine being in the city that day. It was horrific enough on TV. Great expressions, no words can cover what those faces show.
    Great work Jay.

    Rick Yates, September 22, 2011 at 10:46 am | Reply
  • I am starting a journey into the world of photography and am so excited about it’s possibilities. I was given a project to study Jay Maisel who I was aware of but until now I never really appreciated how powerful a photo could be. I guess because I remember those terrible events so clearly these images moved me even more. In each one the same sadness, not anger just disbelief. Everyday people faced with extraodinary emotion captured so completely. I am inspired.

    Chris Demott, September 30, 2011 at 7:47 am | Reply
  • Jay, I’m getting ready to meet you at the Fall Photography Summit in Jackson, and I just want you to know how deeply moved I was by the photos in this essay. I believe that many if not most Americans who witnessed 9/11 carry a buried terrible sadness that can be lived with, but takes only a small stimulus to rekindle the emotion of that time. This is certainly true for me, and your photos touched that place. I feel as you do, I lost them all.

    I look forward to talking with you, and being able to see more of your work.

    David Hime, October 1, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Reply
  • Jay,

    Excellent work, as always. Very moving.

    Having watched both of your Kelby Training videos I know that you always look for gestures when photographing people. It’s very apparent from these images that expression is a powerful form of gesture.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Dan Levesque, December 18, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Reply

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