Witness is the result of my thirty-year painting practice being brought to bear on what I saw and recorded at my home on 9/11/01. These watercolors are an elegy to the lives lost that day. My wife and I were in my Tribeca studio on that sunny morning when the first jet roared over our skylight and slammed in North Tower six blocks away. My camera was at the window as I had been photographing the melancholy, rainy rooftops on 9/10/01. Drawing from this window has been a practice of mine for fifteen years as seen in City. I took my first photo within seconds of impact as the pigeons were lifting to the sound of the explosion at 8:45.
I was drawing and photographing on my rooftop the rest of the day in a dazed state of confusion until Seven World Trade Center fell at 4:30. We thought the attacks were ongoing as explosions continued through the afternoon. There was no electricity or phone service. I was on a neighboring rooftop when the South Tower collapsed in my camera viewfinder. The camera shutter froze as I looked on in disbelief. I ran for my life from the debris cloud but was only dusted as the cloud dissipated as it reached me. My family evacuated uptown that night but returned the next day to find our home transformed and unlivable. We needed masks to breathe in our smoke-filled loft. The streets were filled with firemen, disaster workers and crushed vehicles. That night we were again evacuated due to the bomb threat at the Empire State building. We hit the street to panicked crowds yelling “run south”. We had just come from the south.
We returned home after four days to what had become ground zero. We lived behind swat team barricades for the next four months as the building across the street was identified as a potential terror target. Our phone service was not restored until December 12th. We have lived through the fire that burned for months, the heroic rescue and recovery effort, and a sense of loss that permeates our neighborhood and city. When the second tower fell, the studio flooded with light. I had been living in the shadow of the towers for twenty-two years. But this new light has shadows of it’s own.