Thomas J. Ashton. Albert Conde. Diane Lipari. Kevin Williams. Tawana Griffin Johnson. Guy Barzvi. Clara Hinds. These and hundreds more were names and faces plastered across New York City on chain-link fences, in subways, at bus stops and in hospitals in the days following September 11, 2001. They were missing dads, moms, sisters and brothers who left for work that morning and were never heard from again, every single one eventually counted among the nearly 3,000 people who perished that day.
“An unearthly sense of obscurity and loss filled the air. In a manner most unfitting of New York, one could hear a pin drop.” (Nicola McClean, Photographer)
The sky over Manhattan looked ominous. It was dark, gray and hovering, spewing what looked to the camera’s eye like slashing, blizzard-like snow punishing the deserted, sky-scraping landscape. Only it wasn’t snow, or even a winter day.
The tops of two pairs of filthy boots are barely visible, buried in the dirty depth. Above them, ash-covered firefighters stand surveying the sea of papers that just hours earlier was a busy street filled with New York’s typical morning rush hour pandemonium. Ash pours from the cloud of debris that was the World Trade Center Towers.
There, an abandoned baby stroller. Over there, a shoe and then another, evidence of the panicked flight of bystanders who thought the world was ending.
Since it opened on May 21, more than 750 people have visited “Ground Zero 360: A Photographic Retrospective” currently on display at the UNT on the Square gallery. The images and scenes described above are a few among the collection encircling a twisted piece of I-beam pulled from “The Pile” at Ground Zero.
There is a similar piece of melted I-beam just east on Hickory Street at the Denton Firefighters Museum. It is the centerpiece of the 30-foot tall 9/11 Memorial Bell Tower in front of Central Fire Station, dedicated last September 11th in honor of the 343 firefighters who laid down their lives trying to save others from the fiery inferno.
Ground Zero 360 and the 9/11 Memorial should be experienced together. They are pieces of the same story, the exhibit capturing the horror of the day memorialized by Denton’s newest work of public art.
This past Monday, the Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) in partnership with the Denton Firefighters Museum released a video about the 9/11 Memorial Bell Tower. It features Denton artist Millie Giles and architect David Robinson, the creative minds behind the masterpiece. Fire Station 2 Captain Alan Hempstead recalls his own experience at The Pile when he and two others were deployed from Denton to New York to join rescue efforts.
The video’s mission is to enhance awareness about the Memorial. In tandem with its launch, the CVB also released a new version of the Firefighters Museum promotional video, now including the memorial. View the videos at DiscoverDenton.com or YouTube.com/DiscoverDenton.
Nicola McClean was at Ground Zero that day and for weeks afterward. Her photographs, the basis for Ground Zero 360, bring to life the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“Members of the police and fire departments appeared and reappeared out of the dusty silence, the glare of the travesty forever etched on their faces. I witnessed the best of people facing the worst of times. Their patriotism, confidence and courage were infectious. I felt a profound sense of ‘being American,’ which has stayed with me to this day.
“Like many other poignant events that mark our history, it is our responsibility to remember. It is our responsibility to never forget,” McClean said.
A poster on a subway wall: I heart New York more than ever. A giant American flag draping the side of a building etched with burn, windows blown out, Ground Zero smoldering in the background. And quotes.
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” (John F. Kennedy)
Many quotes in the exhibit remind us that freedom is not and never will be free. Freedom requires vigilance, action, sacrifice. It has since the dawn of America and will for as long as we are willing to fight for it.
This is what the 9/11 Memorial Bell Tower is all about. It is a unique privilege and opportunity to have the tower and the exhibit in Denton at the same time, separate expressions of the same significant day in American history.
Ground Zero 360 is open at UNT on the Square through July 14. Admission is free. Visit UNTonthesquare.com for exhibit details and hours. The 9/11 Memorial Bell Tower is, 24/7, 365 days a year so we do not ever forget.