Tribute in Light: 9/11/2020
EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY collection by Mark D Phillips
On September 11, 2001, during the attack on the World Trade Center, I took a photograph that has become known as Satan in the Smoke. The photograph has haunted me ever since the first moment I saw it.
That image became my main memory of the day.
As a witness to the devastation that occurred not only to my city but to thousands of families, each 911 I sit and listen to every name read during the memorial service at the national 911 Memorial.
On the 19th anniversary, September 11, 2020, I couldn’t find any of the networks covering the ceremony. Finally, I found a live stream from the museum and listened to every name once more. It lasted till almost noon. But I felt I had to do more.
I said to my wife, “I’ve got to go to New York and see the Tribute in Light.”
Originally, the September 11 Memorial & Museum said it wouldn’t mark the tradition for the 19th anniversary due to concerns surrounding the pandemic. Two days later after the decision prompted some backlash, with thousands signing various petitions, Governor Cuomo brought the two blue lights back to the sky.
“I am glad that we can continue this powerful tribute to those we lost on 9/11 and to the heroism of all New Yorkers. We will #NeverForget,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter.
I drove down to New York and spent the night going to different locations. In the hours leading up to midnight, many of the overlooks had photographers and couples, quiet and reverant, marveling at the twin beams of light climbing more than four miles into the sky. There was a somber feeling as everyone wore masks and maintained social distance in Brooklyn Bridge Park and on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. It felt much more like the first anniversary than the nineteenth anniversary.
Finally at 4:30 in the morning, I went to Valentino pier in Redhook, Brooklyn. As I walked the length of the pier, I thought it was a waste of time as the shoreline of the cove blocked the view of the island of Manhattan. Just when I was ready to turn around and leave, I moved to the very end of the pier, leaning against the railing. And there it was, the smallest sliver of open water where the pier just passed the end of the shoreline.
It was what I had searched for all night. Looking at the tip of lower Manhattan with the beams of light and One World Trade Center, the sight was majestic. As the first daylight came warily into the sky, orange smoke from the California wildfires lit up in the west over New Jersey. And then like the hand of God, the clouds above Manhattan seemed to capture the beams in a pool of white, creating a feeling of Heaven.
It was a perfect image, completely opposite of the one I captured on September 11, 2001. It gave me hope for the future, and closure of the past.
As we move to the 20th anniversary of that horrible day, I will still listen to all 2,983 names at next year’s memorial. I will still grieve, and I will try to remember how we came together in the days and weeks afterwards to rebuild our city and our lives. Together we are stronger.
We can’t forget the past, but we must learn to live with it.
EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY:
Mark D Phillips has spent his career capturing pictures that document great stories.
This collection of 13″ x 19″ framed and signed prints by Mark D Phillips include an 8″ x 10″ framed story print. Some are fun, some historic, and all are great stories.
All the images are printed, signed and framed individually by Mark D Phillips.