September 11th 2001-2021

The night before the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001, I exited the subway station at the World Trade Center to see this beautiful memorial in front of me. The angelic wings of the Oculus spread across the plaza, and the tribute in light reached into the night sky. There were few people scattered around, as most of the memorial was roped off for the next morning’s ceremonies; increasing the sacred feeling of the space. I shed a tear or two, remembering the day so long ago.

Looking at the the reflections of people walking inside the Oculus to the subway, going about their business, I could not help thinking of the thousands who had also been going about their business on that beautiful September morning 20 years ago, unaware of the journey they were about to embark on.

I walked over to St. Paul’s Cathedral, which had been a refuge for the rescue and recovery teams after 9/11. The church opened it’s doors to the public for the weekend of the 20th anniversary. Ribbons of remembrance fluttered from the fence around the building that survived the attack that day.

Inside, a few people wandered around, hugging each other, praying, and looking at the artifacts from those times within; including an old banner sent from Oklahoma in the weeks after 9.11. I could not see people’s expressions behind their masks, but I recognized the body language from 20 years ago here tonight – the shock is still raw and the feelings just as real for those who were there.

As I left St. Paul’s, I tied a ribbon on the fence as well.

On the morning of 9/11/2021, I watched the ceremony at Memorial Plaza, and listened to the reading of the names, waiting for one name in particular. It brings me back every year. Later that night, Neil and I went back downtown to spend some time at the Reflecting Pools – the two memorials that fill the footprints of Tower One and Tower Two. Metal panels surrounding the pools are inscribed with the names of everyone who was lost here that day.

The plaza was full of people reading the names of the fallen; remembering, reconnecting. The water of the reflecting pools sparkled and shimmered, bringing an aura and energy of spirit to the air.

Often, in the midst of all these people, we would see someone alone in the middle of the crowd, lost in their own story, thinking of their loved one who had gone.

These young firefighters stood with the flags representing their fathers, proud to be photographed.

These two young men searched to find the mention of a specific FDNY Ladder Company, and then, stood in silence together once they’d found it.

The healing continues, and twenty years are not enough to erase all of the pain. But maybe, that pain can begin to be transformed.


I recently contributed a video of my drawings and experience of the events to the “5 minutes of drawing” series of the Fine Arts University of Lisbon. You can view it on Instagram @fbaul  • Next Friday, September 17th, I will be discussing those drawings, and the art of reportage, with Fred Lynch, at 9 am EST on Instagram Live @fbaul.

Comments (2)

  1. Tina Koyama

    All beautiful sketches and your writing, too. Thank you for your reportage.

  2. Veronica

    Thank you Tina, much appreciated.

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