September 11th can be a difficult topic. It is too important to degrade by talking about the politics. It is too recent to look at it with a historical focus. It is too distant to relive. So how does one appreciate the significance of it? For me, it is in the pictures. Because of technology, the internet, popular media, and American’s hunger for answers on September 11th we have a wealth of visual reminders. Not just reminders of the scale and type of devastation, but also reminders of the heroes and rescue workers. The true nature of America is best seen in the aftermath of such a large tragedy. The empathy and support most people showed, the bravery and heroics that others displayed, the violent answers a few sought, and even the greedy scams that took advantageous of the situation are all apart of who we are. It shows who we can be, at our best and our worst.
To me the people that need to be remembered most are not the victims, but the survivors. The victims deserve respect and to mourned by their families individually. But the firefighters, police officers, medical technicians, military reinforcements, and the volunteers need to be remembered, supported, and thanked. A growing concern/problem is most of these “first responders” are facing serious health problems as a result of their exposure to chemicals and crushed concrete. The incident of respiratory diseases and cancer is incredibly high and many are dying. Our government needs to step up and help them in their time of need, because they stepped up in our country’s time of need.
Photojournalist, Allan Tannenbaum, who faces medical problems as a result of 9/11 has dedicated his life to documenting the hardship facing rescue workers. He has a collection of photos and stories on his own website, and a photo-essay for TIME. I highly recommend you check out the photo essay, it is a short but effective sample of his work.