Category Archives: history

9/11 and 5/1

Disbelief. Shock. Sadness. Heartbreak. Elation. Pride. I ran through a mosaic of emotions in the days, weeks and months after 9/11. Since hearing of Osama Bin Laden’s death I’ve felt them all over again.

I know I’m not the only one. As I hear from others who lived in and around New York City on that day I hear them echoing my own thoughts. One woman who lost her brother said it best, “I understand it’s a good day for America and the families that lost loved ones. In the beginning I was crying and I didn’t understand why, because you think after ten years that the tears will stop coming, but they don’t.”

I don’t feel the same level of anxiety I felt immediately after 9/11, but I still feel tinges of it every year on the anniversary. Time and distance have muted its effects, or at least that’s what I thought. I honestly never considered how I’d feel when the day came that Osama bin Laden was dead, no longer able to harm anyone else, but it feels like 9/11 all over again. Only this time I’m not surrounded by people who understand what it was like.

I’ve realized over the years that all of our lives changed in America that day, but that the closer you were to New York City or Washington DC the more affected you are. Perhaps that’s a no-brainer, but I still struggle to describe what that day was like. I’m often greeted with blank stares when I describe how thousands of people went into work that morning, me included, and how few of them came home. How full I-95 and the trains were going into Manhattan and how empty they were coming out. How a bustling metropolitan area that was constantly covered in sound erupting from planes overhead to cars on the ground to people walking around, was suddenly silent. And how the first time I made my way to the wreckage of the World Trade Center I stood in St. Paul’s Chapel at Vesey Street and couldn’t move for what seemed like hours.

Here is an excerpt from a previous entry I wrote on an anniversary of 9/11. It does help to remember. And it helps to reach out. I get in touch my friend Anne every year on 9/11 and couldn’t help but reach out yesterday after hearing of Osama bin Laden’s death. I don’t have to explain how important it was that we were together on that day.

Nearly ten years ago I woke up to a stunningly beautiful September morning in Connecticut. It was sunny, clear and crisp and fall was in the air. It was one of those days where you realize how gorgeous it’s going to be and you can hardly wait for the day to begin. Summer was trying to hang on, and I was looking forward to the day since Anne and I would have the office to ourselves. Our colleagues were on the road in Washington, DC and Pennsylvania, and I’d be spending the day getting ready to join them in the capitol the next day. Just a couple hours later the whole day changed, and the whole world changed with it.

Living in densely populated Fairfield County I was surrounded by people who worked in the city. My typical evening commute was characterized by driving bumper to bumper on I-95 or being crammed like a sardine on the outbound New Haven commuter train. But that afternoon, the afternoon of September 11th, the interstate was empty. The trains weren’t running. The emptiness combined with complete silence stemming from no flights overhead was eerie and surreal.

My heart continued to break with each passing moment as the reality of the events sunk in. As Anne and I listened to coverage on the radio (phones and the nascent internet were unreliable at best) and helped our colleagues find a way to get back home we just couldn’t visualize the destruction the terrorists had left in their wake. I really didn’t understand what the reporters meant when they said the towers had collapsed. Only that night as I sat in my living room in tears watching coverage of the day’s events, did I start to realize the hole that had been carved out of our country.

I hope all those who were lost on that day can now rest in peace. I hope all those who lost loved ones can find additional closure. And I hope that all of us remember to be compassionate towards those who were affected that day – September 11, 2001.

May 1st

On this day in history…

2011 | Osama Bin Laden is killed by American Special Forces.

2003 | George W. Bush infamously announces “Mission Accomplished” declaring major operations in Iraq are over.

1945 | Hitler’s suicide is announced to the world.

1931 | The Empire State Building is dedicated.

the olmsted elm

Boston is home to more landmarks and historic sites than one could possibly see in one visit or even a lifetime so I know that the home and office of Frederick Law Olmsted, the founder of landscape architecture, doesn’t receive the same visitation as say the site of the Boston Massacre or Paul Revere’s house or Harvard or (one of my personal favorites) Fenway Park.

If you were lucky enough to visit Olmsted’s historic home and office before last month then you no doubt saw the American elm that graced the center of the expansive lawn. I was lucky to work in an office, located on the corner of the second floor (shrouded in vines in this photo I took about five years) with a view of the elm. I watched the elm’s shadows move over the snow in winter and was grateful for its shade in the hot humid summers.

Tree specialists often visited the site to monitor the old tree and their report was always peppered with words of caution that the end was near. Somehow their words, as true as I knew them to be, fell on deaf ears. The tree had lasted this long. Surely it could keep on ticking.

Unfortunately it reached the end of its life this year and was taken down at the end of March. This time-lapse video captures that day and also in some strange way expresses the life the tree possessed. It almost comes alive, even as it’s being taken down. Its majesty is captured on fim so that even those who didn’t get a chance to see it in person will have a sense of its place in this historic landscape.

I have a small piece of the elm that was given to me when I left Boston. And I’m excited to hear that the wood was donated to the Rhode Island School of Design for their artists to create something beautiful out of a life that was long and distinguished… and prized by one of America’s most renowned designers.

timberline lodge

I used to head up to Timberline every winter Saturday morning when I was little to take ski lessons on the slopes of Mt. Hood. By the middle of the afternoon I’d sneak into the lodge, drink hot cocoa by the fire and hang out with the big ‘ol St. Bernards that roamed the halls. Those days are long behind me, but I can still head up the mountain and curl up by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa (this time spiked with a little peppermint schnapps) and enjoy the wintry wonderland perfectly framed through the big glass windows.


the drive up the mountain
the lodge
ram’s head bar – home of their famous hot cocoa & peppermint schnapps
st. bernard puppies

the last kodachrome lab

If you have rolls of kodachrome film still hanging around your closet like I do, then check out this story. There is only one lab left in the world that develops the iconic film. This film changed the trajectory of popular photography and was memorialized by Paul Simon in one of my favorite songs, Kodachrome. The lab in Kansas will continue to develop this film until the end of 2010, which means I have some photography shoots to schedule! Looking forward to 2010!

today-today_people

lincoln cottage

Seven years ago I started research on the Lincoln Cottage, a small house situated on a hill on the edge of Washington D.C. where Abraham Lincoln spent his summers while President. He couldn’t travel to the Shenandoah Mountains like Herbert Hoover did or Camp David like many modern presidents do now. Our country was at war so he needed to stay close to Washington.

However he needed a place that was quiet, where he could think outside the chaos of Washington, and escape the hot swampy weather surrounding the White House. Even during the usually idyllic summer months Lincoln was often described as sad and restless as he wandered the grounds. During the summer of 1862 while living at the cottage he formed his thoughts on slavery that would he would eventually formalize with the Emancipation Proclamation.

My research led to the restoration of the Lincoln Cottage grounds which are now open to the public. The restoration project was initiated in anticipation of the Lincoln Bicentennial, which was in full swing this week surrounding what would have been Lincoln’s 150th birthday. Leading many of those celebrations was President Barack Obama.

In 2002, when I started this project I would not have believed that an African-American would reside in the White House when the celebration commenced. Now I can’t imagine anything else. In itself it’s the most profound element of the celebration and exactly what Lincoln foresaw as he pondered this very issue at the Lincoln Cottage.

the cottage and grounds in 2002 before restoration