Filed under: New York, Travel, Writing | Tags: 9/11, Ground Zero, New York, September 11, South African, Tour, Tribute Center, World Trade Center, WTC
By Dean Stattmann
It was a typical sunny Tuesday afternoon in Johannesburg, South Africa as I stepped off the school bus and onto the sidewalk in front of my house. Another strenuous day in the eighth grade had passed, and I was ready to relax. I walked through the garden, my backpack already on just one shoulder, and into the living room. As usual, I put all my stuff down on the floor and then went to the kitchen to get some lunch. After returning to the living room, I flopped down on the big black leather sofa and began eating from a bowl of noodles as I flipped through the channels, looking up at the big television screen in front of me. I remember how tedious it was navigating through the channels back then. We had satellite TV and there must have been at least 300 stations trying to get my attention every time I turned the thing on. That day was no different. I remember clicking through the cartoons, the food networks, the travel channels, the music videos, the breaking news and the sitcom reruns – all to no avail. At some point my mother called me. She asked me about my day and then mentioned that I should watch the news – something about a bomb. As I backtracked to CNN, I remember seeing something along the way that caught my eye, deciding to come back to it afterwards. When the news came onto the screen, it was exactly what I had expected – news. It seemed like the same news that was on every other day – intangible events in places I had never been, and most likely would never go. The banner across the bottom of the screen said something about trade but I wasn’t really paying attention. I raised my hand towards the screen, my fingers still clutching the remote control, and I changed the channel. That day was September 11, 2001.
On March 5, 2009, I stood in the winter garden bordering the West side of the World Trade Center site. Pressed up against the large glass window, I listened to the verbal accounts of people who lost loved ones that day. I was on a tour. The WTC Tribute Center on Liberty St. was offering unguided audio tours, and today I was here with my college journalism class. Looking out onto the baron 16-acre site, I tried to imagine the towers, the signature of a New York that I would never see. I attempted to visualize them, 110 floors above the ground, bustling with over 50,000 employees from hundreds of companies. I looked around, trying to find a structure of similar scale so I could at least have some kind of reference. Nothing came close.
Then I thought about September 11. Right around the time I put my noodles in the microwave, a plane traveling at over 400 miles per hour ripped into the ninety-third floor of the North tower, killing 1,365 people on impact. Seventeen minutes later, as I searched aimlessly for something entertaining to watch, another plane mimicked the first, this time with the North tower in its sights. At over 500 miles per hour, it turned floors 77 through 85 into a smoke-filled inferno, leaving only the outline of the plane stamped onto the side of the building, the way cartoon characters get slammed into the ground. Within a half hour, the North tower had been reduced to a smoldering pile of rubble, flattening out in twelve seconds.
And then the scariest realization of all: If I had been standing in this exact spot on that same Tuesday, I would be dead. The force of the collapsing towers shattered the windows of every single one of the surrounding buildings, destroying most of them. The newly renovated winter garden in which I was standing was unrecognizable on September 11. The voice coming through my headphones poured out scores of statistics about deaths, casualties… body parts. After a while, they just felt like empty numbers, like people without faces. I later researched those numbers and found that almost every source, from CNN to New York magazine, had different figures. They say that the death of one is a tragedy and the death of millions is a statistic. I find it tragic that there isn’t a definitive statistic.
After the tour, I still felt detached from the events of September 11. I had definitely learnt a lot, but I just didn’t feel it the way I thought I would. It was only afterwards, during a brief walk through the WTC Tribute Center, that it hit me, hard. Displayed modestly against a plain white wall, stood a mangled steel beam – formerly part of one of the towers – that had been removed from the rubble. The sign said not to touch but if this wasn’t going to make the events of that day tangible then nothing was. When I put my hand on the oxidized steel, it occurred to me that this was my first contact with a day that has consumed the lives of thousands of families for the last eight and a half years. Even though it wasn’t my fault, I felt guilty, almost disgusted by my ignorance. I wanted to help someone or at least do something, but it was too late.
My trip to ground zero consumed my thoughts for the rest of the day. I tried to think about how this could have been avoided. I tried to imagine losing someone I loved. I tried to comprehend what the fuck would drive someone to do something like this. I came up with nothing. But one thing I couldn’t shake was my admiration for New York City and its ability to move on. If I learned anything from that day, it’s that no matter what, things will happen in life that are outside of our control. Sometimes we’ll like them, and sometimes we won’t. But when tragedy inevitably strikes, all we can do deal with it the best way we can, and then move on.
Filed under: Fashion, New York, Travel, Writing | Tags: Artist, Colors, Dean, Man, Musician, Old, Painter, Poet, SoHo, Stattmann, Tour, Walking
By Dean Stattmann
I recently did a walking tour of SoHo. Except instead of using a tour guide – a.k.a. walking encyclopedia – I opted for a tour of the self-guided persuasion. I thought that this would provide me with a more personal experience; I imagined that it would allow me to discover my SoHo.
I began my tour, as the New York Times suggested, on Broadway and Houston. Armed with a wealth of information obtained on the internet the night before, I was ready to venture into what I imagined would be an intriguing world of historical anecdotes and interesting facts.
Twenty minutes later, after knocking out the Singer Building and the rest of the “must-sees,” I decided that this tour sucked. Despite my best efforts, there was nothing personal about it. The facts were still the same, the buildings looked the same to me as they did to everyone else and quite honestly – despite my history major – I have an extremely limited interest in the subject.
I put my two-dimensional guide back in my pocket and started walking. I went where I wanted to go; creating my own tour if you will.
After taking a turn onto Wooster St, I was stopped by an elderly man with white hair, wearing a grey coat that extended to the floor. “Lovely lighting today!” he said.
“Excuse me?” I replied
“For taking photographs,” he said, gesturing towards the camera slung over my shoulder. “You can get some great photos today.”
I’m not going to lie. I thought this man was crazy. He seemed way too excited about the absence of clouds in the sky. He also had a peculiar growth on his forehead that resembled an M&M trying to escape from the inside of an inflated balloon.
His next comment threw me off even more.
“You should wear more colors!”
“I’m sorry… what?”
“Colors. You look depressed,” he said. “Are you depressed?”
“I don’t think so. No, I’m not depressed.”
Granted, I was wearing blue jeans and a grey hoodie. But in my defense, I was wearing a pair of extremely bright red shoes, a point that I made to him, hoping to convince him that I wasn’t depressed. Besides, he was wearing a grey frikkin’ coat!
When I asked him about his “adventurous” wardrobe choice, he looked at me, and began slowly undoing the top button of his coat. Then the next one. Then the next one.
By the time he had undone the last button, I had nothing left to say. If someone ever went back in time, stole Joseph’s technicolored dreamcoat and fashioned it into a three piece suit, this man was wearing it.
“Ok, you win,” I said
He just smiled
“Where did you get that?”
“I made it.” he replied
Following a brief exchange about his desire to appear out of the ordinary at all times, it was soon revealed to me that this man was a photographer, a painter, a musician and a poet. However, with technology as his arch nemesis, he assured me that I would not find a word about him online. He didn’t even give me his name.
“There’s some great light today,” he said again as if he hadn’t just said the exact same thing moments earlier.
“Yes there is,” I replied. And with that, we walked our separate ways.
I had discovered my SoHo.
Photo by Dean Stattmann
Filed under: Clips, College, Fashion, Music, New York, News, NYU, Photography, Special, Travel, Writing | Tags: Blog, Dean, Direction, Magazine, Next Stop Go, Photography, Stattmann, Writing
First of all, I want to thank everyone who has kept this blog alive by checking back to see what’s new every day. I have been a lot better about posting recently and you can expect far more frequent posting as of now. I’ve received some great feedback and criticism and that is precisely what keeps me motivated and inspired so please keep it up. And leave comments!
While I am a photographer, and this blog was originally set up as a photography blog, I want to start posting written stories too (The response to And the Interns Shall Inherit the Earth was unbelievable). One thing I want people to understand is that these will not be your stereotypical “today I saw a plastic bag floating carelessly in the wind” blog posts. I am a journalist and I intend to put my skills to use right here, on Next Stop Go. That said, while you will see some newsy pieces, I am going to try take a more magazine-oriented approach from now on. That’s my focus and I will be posting a lot to get as much practice as possible.
However, photography will not depart from this blog in any way, shape or form and I intend to up the volume in that area as well. I take photos at least five days a week and there will be a constant stream of new material right here.
Also, WordPress.com blogs make it virtually impossible to customize stuff but there is always some room for improvement. So, if you ever have a thought or idea on how this blog could be better, please dont hesitate to let me know.
I currently have several projects in motion and they will all appear here on Next Stop Go over the next couple days so watch this space!
That is all.
Next stop go!
Filed under: Photography, Special, Travel | Tags: Arizona, California, Colorado, Cross-Country, Jeep, Nevada, Road Trip, Scenery, Utah, Wrangler
“These forgotten pockets of the road, they wait here while the world carries on.”
Filed under: Photography, Travel | Tags: Adventure, Colorado, Driving, Illinois, Jeep, Kansas, Missouri, On The Road, Road Trip, Travel
Welcome to part II of On the Road, a photo essay from my cross-country trip from NY to CA. This installment covers Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado.