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PPD Spotlight: Finding a New Way to Mark 9/11

By David Schonauer   Tuesday September 20, 2016


For 10 years, photographer and PPD reader Marie Triller arrived at Ground Zero in New York City to document the thousands of people who gathered in solemn remembrance. After the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at Ground Zero was completed and opened to the public, Triller collected the images she’d made over the years in a book, Ten Years: Remembering 9/11. This year, on the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks, Triller returned to Ground Zero during the public ceremony of remembrance. But she found it changed, with crowds of people adding flowers to the Memorial. And, as she write below, she found a new way to document the occasion.

Symbols of Love and Loss

By Marie Triller

I documented each 9/11 anniversary at Ground Zero in New York City for a decade, and that work culminated in the book Ten Years: Remembering 9/11.

My annual pilgrimage became a ritual of photographing the thousands who gathered beyond the fences and barricades of Ground Zero — people there to pay their respects and to remember those who perished in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. To me, those people represented millions more who shared their sorrow.

This year I returned to photograph the 15th anniversary of 9/11. As usual, during the ceremony, I remained on the periphery with everyone else who was not a family member, firefighter or first responder. I moved from place to place around the Memorial and photographed as the names of the victims were read aloud, speeches were given and music was played. The crowds this year were slim, compared to the ceremonies I attended in previous years.

Much else has changed since 2011, when I last documented the event, and when the Memorial & Museum were completed and opened to the public. Following the ceremony there is additional time for families only, and then at 3 pm the Memorial is opened to the public. I decided to stay on to take pictures. By then the crowds were out in force, and they quickly crowded in, adding flowers to the many already left by the families earlier in the day.

Inside the Memorial, I soon found myself photographing those flowers, rather than the people there.

It was a new experience, and I responded to it in a way that surprised me and moved me, as well. These were not simply flowers. These were symbols representing families and their pain. Precious memories of a victim's child. Honor and respect from fellow firefighters.  As I  photographed the flowers that lined the name-filled stretches of granite, I sought to convey these emotions, and found that a flower can speak volumes about love, loss and the fleeting wonder of life.

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All photographs by Marie Triller

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