Since we have just passed the six month anniversary of September 11, we seem, as a collective nation and individually, more ready to deal with the realities of that grim tragedy by seeking to understand it through pictures - be they in the recent documentary aired by CBS, or in two new coffee table books that emerge as a testament to those who lost their lives, those who fought to save them, and those who are attempting to rebuild from the ashes.
September 11: A Testimony by Reuters
Reuters has the largest news agency network in the world, and has long been recognized as one of the leading providers of text, video news, and news photos. By utilizing the services of some 2,500 journalists, photographers, and cameramen from all over the world, Reuters captures breaking stories and images on a daily basis, just as they did on September 11 and in its aftermath.
This book uses more than 135 photographs with accompanying text, and all of its royalties will be donated to disaster relief through both the AIDFund and AIDFund to America organizations. AIDFund, established by Reuters Foundation, provides immediate funding to help charities and relief organizations around the globe respond rapidly in times of disaster. AIDFund for America responds specifically to the human loss and suffering in the United States following the events of September 11. All donations to both charities go to disaster relief, with nothing spent on administration.
The book is a collection of some of the best-known (at this point) and most dramatic images of September 11. “The guiding principle in assembling these images was one of documenting scenes of endurance and resolve. Finding the pictures that capture courage and fortitude in the heat and dust,“ says the book‘s jacket, and the claim seems to bear true.
It opens with the hijacked planes slamming into the two World Trade Center towers, documents the destruction at the Pentagon and in Philadelphia, and then quickly moves into what is the heart of the book - how the heroic workers struggled against impossible odds to save lives and avert more destruction, the faces of grief, and the stunned reactions of the rest of the country.
There is not an image contained here that is nothing less than powerful, be it a firefighter calling for more rescue workers to burrow into the rubble, workers cutting through steel as they clear the WTC site, a three-year-old at a candlelight vigil, mourners adding to the sidewalk memorial outside a New York City firehouse, commuters leaving Times Square passing posters of people missing after the attacks, or a police officer gazing into the waters off lower Manhattan as he travels on a ferry with the smoke of the damage still wafting through the air behind him. Interestingly enough, all photos of President Bush feature him with the same blank expression. The only real complaint here is that the well-written, succinct text on the accompanying page of each picture could definitely be larger, and by using such a small font, it seems to be curiously designed to be downplayed and less significant than the photo, which should not be the case.
Brotherhood by Frank McCourt, Rudolph Giuliani, and Thomas Von Essen
On September 11, 343 New York City firefighters died in the inferno and ashes of the World Trade Center. This oversized volume is a tribute to the men and women whose dedication as a firefighter was never more greatly tested than on that day where so many sacrificed their lives in an attempt to save others and emerged as heroes for all time.
Organized by American Express and Ogilvy & Mather, with much of the printing and binding done at cost, the profits of this homage are going to the New York Firefighters 911 Relief Fund.
More than 50 of New York‘s most renown photographers, including the likes of Albert Watson, Mary Ellen Mark, Mark Seliger, Christian Wittkin, and Mark Borthwick, contributed to the volume, keeping their focus on the engines, ladders, tools, firehouses, and units that were all under siege. There are black and white and full-color photographs of all sizes, and written in silver across the bottom of each page and on the end pages are the names, division, and battalion of each firefighter who perished.
One of the most memorable features of this impressive book is the first-rate text provided by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Frank McCourt, the acclaimed writer of “Angela‘s Ashes“ and “‘Tis,“ the former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whose leadership played a pivotal role in the unification and healing of New York, and Fire Chief Thomas Von Essen, whose eloquent prologue about why firefighters have always been heroes is deeply touching. Their reflections are placed at the start and pave the way for the photographs, which speak for themselves with no captions.
The images capture grief and heartbreak, determination and pain, strength and exhaustion, as well as the many different facets and expressions of gratitude from a public wanting to recognize the efforts of the firefighters. All the way around, this is a class act with its subtle, yet extremely effective messages about firefighters - from the belief that they demonstrate the “purest example of love that we have in our society“ to how their inspiration will make a better society for the future. If you‘ve ever wondered how to define a hero, look no further than these pages.