Still Life

Yesterday I went to Green-Wood Cemetery to fulfill a photo request for the grave of firefighter David Fontana. While I was there, I noticed that many other victims of 9/11were in the same area, with many firefighters buried next to each other. I was walking around taking photos of some of the graves, when a woman called out to me “Good morning!” She asked if I was taking photos of people from 9/11. She then asked me if I’d like to take a photo of her son’s grave. She and her husband were planting new flowers in front of the stone as they are having a memorial service there today. She told me how he grew up with two very close friends since childhood and they all went to school together and joined Cantor Fitzerald together – where they all died. Together.

I have to go back and re-take the grave photos (it was too bright out and his stone is black and reflective), which I will email to his lovely parents. Reading his memorial pages, it is obvious that he is loved and missed by many. Rest in peace, Jude Safi.

Here is a photo of a flag some of his friends left for him and a link to his tribute page.

Lastly, I welcome your comments (as always), except if you write “Never forget”. The phrase to me is inane and offensive. Nobody who lived in NYC is ever going to forget. I am not going to forget how a simple twist of fate kept me from going downtown that morning as I so often did. I am not going to forget watching the towers fall and seconds later feeling my entire house rumble from the impact. I am not going to forget the coating of dust all over my house and my car – dust full of people. Or the smell. The horrible smell that lasted for weeks. I will never forget how many people called my house and said “oh, thank God” when I answered the phone – knowing that I was safe. I will never forget going to volunteer for the Red Cross for one day and staying close to 6 months – feeding rescue workers at the Office of Emergency Management, and talking to fire chief Tom von Essen while he cried telling me about all of the funerals he was attending for his men. Or seeing Guiliani and his staff almost daily (this is where he gave his updates from when he was indoors) . Or the NYPD who came running to my table asking for plastic bags because they were getting reports of anthrax everywhere. I will never forget seeing people openly weeping on the subways for weeks and weeks after it happened. Or the large number of firefighters from my neighborhood who died – including one around the block who left 10 children under the age of 16 behind. I will never forget being escorted into the site days later when it was still on fire and entering one of the World Financial Center buildings where the windows were all blown out, the atrium had dust inches thick and even though it was entirely empty, the escalators were still running, carrying nobody anywhere.

I will “never forget”. I will also never toss that phrase around as if it makes me patriotic.


14 thoughts on “Still Life

  1. That’s a beautiful photo and a powerful post Gisele.

    From across the country that morning the rumbling and the ash we felt were symbolic, but they were felt. Our tears and emotions were genuine though.

    I was working in the travel industry then, and as the work day ended I pulled my team together. We talked for awhile and the common theme of ‘helpless’ came up. What they weren’t seeing was that they were in fact playing a role. No, they weren’t in New York, or Washington, or Pennsylvania to be able to help; but their work that day, tirelessly finding creative means to reunite stranded family members, was also important.

    In some way, I think everyone played a role in helping.

    Thanks for the work you did … and count me among those who say thank God you weren’t hurt. I wish us all peace as we go through this anniversary together.

  2. Gisele:
    Thank you for your personal account of 9/11. My son lives and works in Manhatten. We had a few anxious hours before finding out he was not in that part of the city. Peace to all who mourn.

  3. Gisele, I’m wiping away tears from reading your powerful words. Bless you for the work you, and others, tirelessly undertook. We live in a remarkable country full of remarkable people. I’m happy to know you.

  4. You have me trembling and wiping tears from my eyes! One of the most powerful posts and images I have seen yet! Thanks you for sharing your experiences with us.

  5. It is unreal that it could be 10 years since the events of 9/11. The magnitude of it is still hard to comprehend. There are no words to adequately express my feelings of sadness for the losses that occurred that day.

  6. Pingback: From My Past « Gisele's 2011

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