It's been crazy seeing various accounts across social media today, from people from various stages of my life recounting where they were when they first heard that dreadful news what I really cannot believe was really 13 years ago, where they were when they first heard of that first plane crashing into the World Trade Center.
I was a sophomore at Rock Bridge High School. I can't remember the class, but all I remember is that all of a sudden TVs were being wheeled out into the commons, a large open area in the middle of our high school, students and teachers alike crowding around, and hundreds more in their respective classrooms.
I remember not knowing what was going on at first. As I watched the news coverage on the TV screen during my first block (first period) of the day, I remember staring in shock, trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I wasn't watching a movie or horrific news coverage of something that happened long ago or happened somewhere else, I was staring, watching, in shock along with my peers, teachers, staff, and students, as slowly we were piecing together the news that an attack had just been made on the United States.
To be completely honest with you, this morning and much of today, I haven't wanted to remember.
Every photo and every post, there would be a part of me that would start to go there and immediately be taken back, by something as small as a photo or a series of words to the emotions and that place I had been 13 years ago when it first happened, but even more so, to that place I was the rest of the day being glued to news coverage and later that night with my family.
We woke up September 14, 2001 to a very different America.
One that no matter how much I tried to deny or push it aside today and this morning, a reality that has only become more real each year since those dreadful memories, the reality that our world would never be the same.
At the same moment those words are somber, in them and in the numerous amounts of photographs and news coverage I've been scouring today, there is another element of the story that must also be told.
The resiliency and the hope and strength of the human spirit, the resiliency, hope, and strength of the American people, who banded together in one of the greatest tragedies to face our nation, who chose to unite, not divide in the face of chaos, utter devastation, and heartbreak.
Yet an American spirit that has defined much of how this nation would respond and walk through crisis from that day forward, a spirit of unity, a spirit of selflessness and sacrifice, and a spirit of brotherhood that despite our multitude of races, socioeconomic standings, political views, geographic locations, ages, backgrounds, vocations, is a spirit that continues to unite us all.
We will never forget.
As I was reminded today, as it felt as if aspects of this day and the vivid memories it still holds were haunting me, no matter how hard I tried to escape it, I came to realize forgetting it is impossible.
This is a day we remember heartbreak and devastation.
This is a day we remember and honor the thousands of lives lost, the families still grieving and missing loved ones.
This is a day we remember and honor the sacrifice of hundreds, the stories told and untold of those who stepped up in the line of duty, some of them putting their very lives in danger for the sake of others.
This is a day we remember an event that was so much more than an event, yet a day in history no matter how hard any of us try, is a day we will never forget.
Our hearts and our thoughts and our prayers are with you.
We will never forget.
I ran into a series of unpublished images by Time photojournalist James Nachtwey, his images and commentary captured the heart of just one eyewitness on that dreadful day. I was reminded of the power of story, of the power of a photograph and this field near and dear to my heart, photojournalism. We've included each of those images along with his words he shared on TIME with these photos. We felt sharing them in their entirety rather than selecting a few was appropriate as his images capture the heart of what it was like on the scene in one of the most horrific moments in recent U.S. history. We were moved by his images and his words.
James Nachtwey happened to be in New York the morning of 9/11 and made his way to Ground Zero. Ten years ago, TIME published Nachtwey’s extraordinary pictures from the day, but he had not revisited those 27 rolls of film since. A few weeks ago, we had Nachtwey in the office, poring over his contact sheets, reliving the events of that Tuesday. Here, he shares his edit of those photographs, some previously unpublished (slides: 1, 5, 8, 9, 11, 14, 16), with TIME and spoke with writer David Levi Strauss about the work.
“In my mind it all went into slow motion. Everything was floating. I thought I had all the time in the world to make the picture, and only at the last moment realized I was about to be taken out.”