by sam on 09/11/2016

15 years.

15 years ago, I left my apartment on a perfect, clear, beautiful morning and headed in a different direction than normal because I had to vote.

10 years ago, I unburdened myself of the bottled up memories of what happened after I walked outside.

One month ago, on the first day of my summer vacation, before I left for my actual trip, I found myself in lower manhattan. And then I found myself inexorably drawn to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I had visited the Memorial before, when it first opened and still required tickets (and still inspired solemnity rather than selfies on the part of most visitors), but I had not gone to the museum since its opening. One month ago I did.

I’m not going to post a gallery of pictures here, because photos don’t really do it justice. I spent most of my visit trying to simply experience the space. There were, of course, as seems to be everywhere these days, the inconsiderate and completely inappropriate visitors who have no respect for the purpose of the exhibit, but I largely put those people in the background and simply stood still while they nattered on around me until they eventually disappeared from my field of view (which they all eventually would), and I could simply absorb each exhibit and moment in the timeline at my own speed.

The moment that I finally broke down in tears was a small one in the context of the day. Amidst trucks and plane debris, and half burned SEC releases and…shoes, there was a small display of camera equipment pulled from the debris, with an explanation of the two photojournalists who were injured and the one who was killed on that day.

In my essay ten years ago, I wrote about a lot of things, but I left out a lot of small details, and when I was looking at that small display last month, one discrete memory came flooding back.

In the moments after the second plane hit, and I gathered with hundreds of others along 6th avenue to watch in shock at the two buildings on fire…those long, first minutes when we knew for certain that this was intentional and not some horrific accident, I saw a man go running at full speed downtown in the middle of the street. He wasn’t a police officer or firefighter. He was laden down with cameras. He was a photographer, and he was also going to do his job.

And standing there last month, that memory came flooding back, because it was the very first time that I had ever heard with specificity that photographers were killed and injured that day.

I thought I had prepared myself for the emotion of revisiting the history of that day, a history that we’ve all lived through and seen so many times. But I wasn’t actually prepared for everything. And in the end, I’m grateful that I could still feel so deeply about it.