The World Trade Center towers started appearing in my photographs in 1994. Sometimes on purpose, but often by luck.
I made closeup images and scenic landscapes from afar of those 110-story tall buildings upon first being introduced to them. And on my return trips I traveled throughout the city, visiting the Statue of Liberty, walking the famous bridges, going as far up as I could in the Empire State Building and capturing the uniqueness of the Flatiron building.
When the towers were destroyed 20 years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, I had already booked a flight into the city for an annual holiday trip. I remember details about visiting the site of the attack a few months after it happened. There were wreaths and flowers and tributes still surrounding the deep crater that was known as Ground Zero.
It was empty, and there was an overwhelming sense of loss in the atmosphere at that site.
I was able to come to terms on some level with what happened as I had a firsthand view of watching the city come back from that attack. Each time I visited, progress and more healing had happened. Most Americans only have a visual of that fateful day of watching the attack being carried out and then seeing news reports of the devastation that followed.
But I am lucky to have witnessed the towers be reincarnated. In November of 2009, I had a chance to see them once again in the form of a battleship.
When my nephew, a United States Marine who served in Afghanistan, was invited to take part in the Nov. 7, 2009, commissioning of the U.S. Navy’s USS New York, I jumped at the chance to head up to Manhattan and document the event.
Members of all four branches of the U.S. military took part in the ceremony that celebrated the official launch of the “instrument of freedom and peace” built to serve as an amphibious transport dock ship, carrying up to 400 sailors and hundreds of marines and war equipment when needed.
This ship was named after New York for a reason and given the motto: “Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget.”
I say I got to see the towers again because inside the bow of the USS New York there are 7.5 tons of World Trade Center steel that was taken from the wreckage, melted down, and poured into the vessel’s hull.
That day was a blur filled with pomp and circumstance and hope and perseverance.
But one scene is still etched in my memory. When the call came out for the sailors to “Go get your ship,” I froze that moment in time not only with my cameras but in my mind.
When I reflect on the towers that once represented terror and evil, I return to that moment. Hundreds of sailors running down a red carpet, the band playing, the cheering happening all around me.
I see the ship and all of those marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen lining every deck wearing their dress uniforms as they stepped forward in solidarity ready to defend the freedom and peace of our country.