The War Diaries

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Archive for the ‘Manhattan’ tag


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A ConEd power worker on First Avenue between 20th and 21st Streets in Peter Cooper Village, Manhattan as the blackout caused by Hurricane Sandy grinds on. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

New York- Finally made it into Manhattan yesterday after nearly a week of storm imposed seclusion in the outer boroughs of the city. Subway service was partially restored to Midtown and I decided to hop on one of the inbound trains and explore what I’d heard from friends via text and the media. I walked from 33rd Street and Herald Square down to Houston and Broadway, from there to Avenue C, and up to 20th Street and First Avenue.

Most of lower Manhattan felt deserted like some lame Will Smith movie. Bicyclists were having a field day ruling the streets. In Union Square, there was a weird dichotomy where apparently those with cash ate a trendy food trucks doing a roaring trade and those without waiting in long food distribution line monitored by police. Walking around during the light of day was a bit eery but entirely manageable. Once I reached Avenue C as the dark descended, despite the heavy presence of emergency vehicles, it still felt as if the area was on the cusp of lawlessness.

Everywhere I walked south of 34th Street appeared like a frozen zone. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Residents of the Union Square area wait in line for a late afternoon food distribution as temperatures begin to drop. It felt as if everyone was homeless. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

The city’s gasoline crisis has now become a paramount issue in the post-Sandy recovery. Not only are fuel supplies low or totally out but there is not electricity to power petrol stations. BP, Broadway and Lafayette (the old Gaseteria). ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Katz’s Delicatessen, an iconic 24/7 LES business that generally never closes, remains shuttered. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

An Iraq-beige National Guard vehicle pulls away from a makeshift food distribution center on the corner of Houston and Pitt Streets on the Lower East Side. Guardsmen were being tasked with distributing meals en masse is disaster-affected areas of the city. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

The dark apartment blocks of Manhattan’s Stuyvessant Town neighborhood are faintly lit by passing traffic on the adjacent FDR drive. Pedestrians pass each other on the streets with wariness with often the only sources of light sirens and cell phones. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

A policeman directs otherwise anarchic traffic on First Avenue as stop lights sit dark for miles. Pedestrians cross at your own risk. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Lower Manhattan has been deeply affected by explosions at the Con-Edison power station on 14th Street and Avenues C and D during the height of the storm surge. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Written by derekhenryflood

November 2nd, 2012 at 9:41 am

Such Great Heights

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1 World Trade Center begins to enter the final stages of its façade construction more than a decade after the destruction of its predecessors. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

New York- I was doing some writing yesterday about my experiences in Afghanistan and Central Asia in the months after 9/11. Delving into the assassination of Massoud, the death of an Italian colleague, meeting the Taliban, and all of the other random seeming things that led me to be in New York on 9/11 and in Afghanistan shortly thereafter gave me pause to reflect on the constant of time, the merits of what we call progress. In the near future the new WTC will be completed with tourists, wallets bulging with euros (if the euro survives), pounds, yen and yuan, trampling grounds that to me look more reminiscent of Abu Dhabi’s corniche than the considerably less imaginative original twin towers architected by Minoru Yamasaki in 1965.

4 World Trade Center makes its hulking ascent over lower Manhattan. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Written by derekhenryflood

March 28th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

The Sun Sets on 9/11/2001

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A Blackhawk helicopter flys above the plume surveying the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11. This never before seen image was made adjacent the River Cafe on Brooklyn's DUMBO waterfront at approximately 8pm after the suicide attacks killed nearly 3000. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

New York- In advance of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I scanned a number of never before seen images that I shot on that ashen evening a decade ago. I knew this day would eventually come but it is all still so vivid. 9/11 helped to lead me all around the world from Brooklyn to Kunduz to Hamburg to Najaf to San Diego to Kuala Lumpur to Tarragona and on and on. I have followed both the trail and aftermath of this event more doggedly than almost anyone. What sets my story apart is that I simply lived much of it. I lived in San Diego when Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Midhar did. I used to deliver pizza to the apartments across the street from Anwar Awlaki’s mosque. I met the Taliban in Peshawar less than a year before 9/11 when I was writing what would become my senior college thesis.

I was already planning a trip to Afghanistan when 9/11 happened. I was in the process of tracking down the Taliban at their office here in Queens which they had set up to lobby the UN (unsuccessfully) for international recognition beyond that granted to them by Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Islamabad. I was in touch with the Italian photojournalist who had shot what would turn out to be Ahmad Shah Massoud’s obituary photo in the NY Times. He would in turn be assassinated by an Israel Defence Forces conscript in Ramallah just six months later. The carnage would not end there.

Witnessing 9/11 in New York allows one a few exemptions. Having been in Manhattan and Brooklyn that day (and having been in Pakistan before and Afghanistan afterward) allows me the intellectual liberty of never having to entertain tiresome conspiracy theories. There is a certain righteousness in tragedy. If I choose,  I don’t have to listen to anyone’s opinion who was not there about what they think happened…much less anyone who has never been to New York or the US as they pontificate their ridiculous ideas. There was a conspiracy behind 9/11. It involved a group of Arab Salafi-jihadi men who sought to punch a hole in the heart of the West.

Yes there are a ton of things we can never understand about how exactly things went down that day or what transpired in Hamburg and the Afghan camps before 9/11. Yes the 9/11 commission report is full of holes, vague on many, many details, and is an overall shoddy document. But none of that amounts to the justification of nonsensical 9/11 theories put forth by armchair crackpots, middle class Peshawaris, or anti-American social democrats. And finally, yes, 9/11 justifies almost none of the clumsy, giant footprint military actions that took place in its aftermath. 9/11 was never a justification for human rights abuses or going to bed with gruesome dictatorships (think Islam Karimov’s Uzbekistan et al).

It was not 9/11 itself that heralded the stark polarization so desired by al-Qaeda. It was the response to 9/11 that divided the world more than the post-colonial, post-war realm had already been. A decade of talking about who has won and who has lost is both immaterial and intellectually childish. It was never about winning or losing. It is about carrying on with life. Getting on with the business of this awkwardly, unevenly integrating world. Forget about the concept of globalization and its discontents.

My dream morphed into a mission. Photographer became photojournalist. A day turned into a decade. Photojournalist became journalist. Life into death. Day into night. Dark into light.

Brooklynites gazing at the plume in the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11. To their left TV crews prepare to broadcast. This never before seen image was made weeks before America would begin to wage war in Afghanistan, its longest hot war in history. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

A mother holds her daughter while gazing at the plume in the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

A group of Brooklyn Hasidim watch the sun set on 9/11. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

A Japanese reporter broadcasts live from Brooklyn with the WTC plume as a dramatic backdrop. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

NYPD officers can do nothing but watch as lower Manhattan smolders after they were ordered to close the Brooklyn Bridge. The shock had not fully set in yet. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

Written by derekhenryflood

September 9th, 2011 at 8:49 am