Ground Zero Immortalized
It has been six years since that fateful day: two planes crashed on the World Trade Center, and in a matter of minutes, the twin towers collapsed; and with collapsed the confidence and security of the nation. We have all seen the images of the planes crashing on the buildings, but the images that show the aftermath are more difficult to look at, and in a sense, more beautiful albeit painful, because they convey a truth in them that spurs emotions in the viewer. For this reason, I have chosen to discuss Thomas E. Franklin’s “The Flag Raising at Ground Zero” and Ron Berard’s untitled shot of ground zero.
Franklin’s photo shows three firemen raising the American flag among the ruins of the twin towers. It calls to memory a sense of history, of American fighters in the past who have gone to war and after all the blood has been shed, raised the American flag among the chaos. The difference is that these men are not soldiers but firemen, and the war is not on foreign soil but here. However, the sentiment is the same: we are fighters, we are survivors, and we will not forget those who have died for the name of our country and everything that we stand for. Those who have died in the 9/11 may not have been soldiers who have pledged to protect the country, but in the context of what has happened – America, and all it stood for, our way of life, our values, was the target and those unsuspecting civilians were in a way epitome of the American life. That is why we feel so much for them and the loss, because we know that we could have easily been them, because deep down we were all one and the same. And the photo was that powerful because with the single image of the firemen raising the flag it says all that is not seen – our will to fight for freedom and democracy, our hopes and dreams.
In the same way, Ron Berard’s photo communicates more than what meets the eye. Berard’s shot shows the remains of the twin towers. A segment of the wall still stands, but everything else has crumpled. There is dirt, grime, soot everywhere, and destruction is all over the picture. But that shadow of a wall makes all the difference. The World Trade Center may have crumpled, but it was not totally destroyed. The picture reminds one of a phoenix, the mythical bird who rises from the ashes.
These pictures captured the darkest hours of the September 11 bombing, when the deaths have been reported, and the edifice caved in. These serve as reminders of the violence and destruction that the world was witness to. These are reminders of the pain, but more than that, they are also reminders of hope. The man who looks at these photos immediately remembers that tragic day, and it strikes a chord within him, that terrorism destroys lives. These pictures as art forms immortalize the fear that the event instigated, and then the vehemence stemming from the desire to uphold our most dearly held values. And any man could relate to that, because all of us have experienced loss, and all of know what it means to get up and fight for what is important to us. That is what makes these photos truly remarkable, because they have condensed the emotions and reflected the sentiments of the people at that particular time, and evidence of this is that it still evokes the same sentiments now, years and a new edifice after.
Ron Berard’s Ground Zero photo
Thomas E. Franklin’s Ground Zero Spirit