The War Diaries

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Archive for the ‘WTC’ tag

Ground Zero: My Photographs from 9/11/01 to 9/11/11

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Paros- Four years ago today I finished this decade-long documentary project about what was then called ground Zero in lower Manhattan. When 9/11 took place in my city, I told myself I would follow the story wherever I could for as long as I could. It took me to Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Hamburg, the Republic of Georgia, Jordan, Iraq, Bangkok, Malaysia, and countless other locales as the “War on Terror” unfolded. I then kept returning to New York City, my home, for each subsequent anniversary.

Ground Zero is now the site of One World Trade Center, a hub for New York City’s tourism industry. The city has been rebuilt where it was thrashed by the largest suicide attack in history. Ground Zero buzzes with curious visitors posting the requisite photos to social media but the memory lays there, heaving with silent grief underneath flowing water and cool black stone.

9/11 unequivocally changed our world. We are living in a less safe, less just world today in my judgement. Freedoms have been curtailed as the United States has evolved into a low key surveillance state in response. Afghanistan is still in a state of war. Iraq has been broken likely irreparably. Then the ‘Arab Spring’ happened. It resulted not in a well spring of democratic growth as many initially hoped but inadvertently acted as an enabling factor for the spread of cancerous salafi-jihadi ideology to the point of holding territory by the most vile of non-state actors.

9/11 must be remembered with calm dignity, not be opportunistically exploited with jingoism or crass populism. A vigil of the spirit.

A ghastly toxic plume of smoke and ash rises above Ground Zero after the total collapse of the North and South Towers of New York's World Trade Center on 9/11. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

A ghastly toxic plume of smoke and ash rises above Ground Zero after the total collapse of the North and South Towers of New York’s World Trade Center on 9/11. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

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

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

Ruins of twin towers smoking as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge on 9/12/2001. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

Ruins of twin towers smoking as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge on 9/12/2001. ©2001 Derek Henry Flood

On the six month anniversary of 9/11 the New York Stock Exchange is draped in a massive American flag. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

On the six month anniversary of 9/11 the New York Stock Exchange is draped in a massive American flag. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

The New York City police department bagpipe troupe marches over the Brooklyn Bridge at dawn on the one year anniversary of 9/11. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

The New York City police department bagpipe troupe marches over the Brooklyn Bridge at dawn on the one year anniversary of 9/11. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

A candlelight vigil was held in Brooklyn's Prospect Park on the evening of September 11, 2002 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the suicide attacks that shook New York City to its core the previous year. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

A candlelight vigil was held in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on the evening of September 11, 2002 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the suicide attacks that shook New York City to its core the previous year. ©2002 Derek Henry Flood

The towers of light on 9/11/03. ©2003 Derek Henry Flood

The towers of light on 9/11/03. ©2003 Derek Henry Flood

Despite conspiracy theories to the contrary most of New York's diverse communities were affected by 9/11. Here a pair of Hasidic men attand the ceremony held for the second anniversary of 9/11. ©2003 Derek Henry Flood

Despite conspiracy theories to the contrary, most of New York’s ethnic and religious communities were affected by 9/11. Here a pair of Hasidic men attand the ceremony held for the second anniversary of 9/11. ©2003 Derek Henry Flood

New Yorkers gather outside the void that remains five years after the destruction of New York's World Trade Center. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

New Yorkers gather outside the void that remains five years after the destruction of New York’s World Trade Center. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

People gather in remembrance of the 5 year anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks at the former site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

People gather in remembrance of the 5 year anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks at the former site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

The Towers of Light as photographed from across the Hudson River in New Jersey on the 5th year anniversary of 9/11. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

The Towers of Light as photographed from across the Hudson River in New Jersey on the 5th year anniversary of 9/11. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

A group of New York City firefighters pass by a Ground Zero outside the annual memorial ceremony on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in lower Manhattan with the construction of a new tower finally begginning to arise from the void in the background. ©2010 Derek Henry Flood

A group of New York City firefighters pass by a Ground Zero outside the annual memorial ceremony on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in lower Manhattan with the construction of a new tower finally begginning to arise from the void in the background. ©2010 Derek Henry Flood

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden the partially built new World Trade Center tower is lit up in the colors of the American flag. The lighting was prepared in advance of President Barack Obama's visit to Ground Zero to lay a wreath the following morning in remembrance of the nearly 3000 killed on 9/11. ©2011 Derek henry Flood

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden the partially built new World Trade Center tower is lit up in the colors of the American flag. The lighting was prepared in advance of President Barack Obama’s visit to Ground Zero to lay a wreath the following morning in remembrance of the nearly 3000 killed on 9/11. ©2011 Derek henry Flood

President Barack Obama exits the stage after giving an impassioned speech for the families of victims at the ceremony in Lower Manhattan to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. A sorrowful George W. Bush stands on the overhead screen. While the Obamas remained composed throughout the ceremony the Bush's displayed visible signs of emotion as the events of 9/11 were collectively remembered. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

President Barack Obama exits the stage after giving an impassioned speech for the families of victims at the ceremony in Lower Manhattan to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. A sorrowful George W. Bush stands on the overhead screen. While the Obamas remained composed throughout the ceremony the Bush’s displayed visible signs of emotion as the events of 9/11 were collectively remembered. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Families arrive en masse to the site of the former World Trade Center to grieve once more for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The attacks claimed victims from across New York's incredibly diverse ethnic and religious communities. Here an Latino family grieves for a lost member. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Families arrive en masse to the site of the former World Trade Center to grieve once more for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The attacks claimed victims from across New York’s incredibly diverse ethnic and religious communities. Here an Latino family grieves for a lost member. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Written by derekhenryflood

September 11th, 2015 at 3:20 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

My Ten Year Photography Retrospective of Ground Zero New York

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New York- What began as one horrific day turned into a decade long quest. 9/11 did not change the course of my life, it merely accelerated it at hyper speed. In the weeks before the suicide attacks on New York, I had been studiously laying the groundwork for a photographic journey inside Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. I had hoped to undertake the trip in the spring of 2002 when the first winter snows would begin to melt. The Taliban regime maintained a little known office in a working-class section of New York’s Queens borough. Taped to the front of the ad hoc mission’s cheap wooden door was a sign printed up on computer paper that read: “Mission of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” in English, Pashto, and Dari.

From this non-descript medical building filled with Indian doctor’s offices, two Taliban diplomats shuttled back and forth to the United Nations headquarters in Turtle Bay. Shunned by the majority of the international community when word of their track record on women’s rights or lack thereof and anti-Hazara pogroms became publicized, they tried and failed to win over other nation-state’s representatives to grant them the international recognition they craved. My cold calls to these men were met with great suspicion. They wanted records of what university I attended and a detailed study of my employment history to even consider granting me a tourist visa to their then forgotten backwater that occupied my dreams.

In the interim, I studied up on all the available literature on the group that existed in August of 2001, which was next to nothing. I then happened upon a rather obscure text in the warrens of The Strand, New York’s most famous used bookshop. The book, Taliban: A Shadow Over Afghanistan by a German academic called Burchard Brentjes and his wife Helga, was translated into English and published in Varanasi, India. I scooped up the book, confident it would not be missed by anyone else that August and shuttled it back to Brooklyn. On a balmy evening two days before 9/11, I sat upon the tar papered rooftop of a brownstone row house and excitedly flipped through the text, occasionally glancing up to watch the setting sun radiate off the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on the other side of the East River. I sat in wonderment, thinking about this devastated, landlocked country a half a world away that captivated my imagination since a pair of backpacking visits to its borderlands in Pakistan’s Baluchistan and Northwest Frontier Province (since renamed Khyber-Pakhtunkwha Province) in 1999 and 2000.

Afghanistan under the Taliban was a weak, chaotic place that drew in Salafi-jihadi terrorists from around the globe to its realm ruled by accommodating Deobandi Islamists with a myopic worldview.  The relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda was a highly transactional, murky one and, at the time, the two entities were considerably less interdependent than many might assume looking back on the era today. That important nuance would matter little when 19 men from four Arab countries would hijack four passenger jets and use two of them to pulverize the densely populated New York icon killing nearly 3000 people. The destruction of the World Trade Center would set the stage for the first decade of the twenty-first century, much of it disastrous. It would transform me from a curious California geography student into a war correspondent. Year after year, I returned to the site of the attack to document the bouts of collective grief and fits of progress. This is my record of a decade of 9/11.

Written by derekhenryflood

September 13th, 2011 at 8:49 am

9/11/2011-Dedication Day

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President Barack Obama exits the stage after giving an impassioned speech for the families of victims at the ceremony in Lower Manhattan to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. A sorrowful George W. Bush stands on the overhead screen. While the Obamas remained composed throughout the Bush's displayed visible signs of emotion as the events of 9/11 were recalled. It is almost as if the weight of the Bush legacy is literally on Obama's shoulders here. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

President Barack Obama gives an almost surprisingly religious speech for the families of victims at the ceremony in Lower Manhattan to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Families arrive en masse to the site of the former World Trade Center to grieve once more for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Families arrive en masse to the site of the former World Trade Center to grieve once more for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The attacks claimed victims from across New York's incredibly diverse ethnic and religious communities. Here a South Asian Muslim couple remember family members. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Here a firefighter remembers a fallen Irish-American comrade. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

A giant projection outside the WTC memorial shows family members visiting the inscriptions and footprint fountain for the first time. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

An American Special Forces soldier solemnly observes the 10th anniversary of 9/11. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

A Latino family grieves for a lost daughter and sister. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Those that died on 9/11 were representative of the New York metro area's heterogenous cultural and religious mix. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Written by derekhenryflood

September 11th, 2011 at 12:27 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

From #2 to #1: Ayman al-Zawahiri and the question of al-Qaeda’s Leadership Succession

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The new WTC tower reflected in window of the Brooks Brothers store against backdrop of an American flag during President Barack Obama's visit to Ground Zero following the killing of Osama bin Laden. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, the partially built new World Trade Center tower is lit up in the colors of the American flag in preparation for President Barack Obama's visit to Ground Zero. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

New York- So bin Laden is dead, sunk to the bottom of the Arabian Sea in a weighted body bag. What comes next for al-Qaeda? A lot of assumptions come into play, the foremost of which is that the angry Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri will assume the top position. Analysts seem to think that al-Zawahiri is combative ideologically and lacks any of the charisma of bin Laden. Many would probably like to believe al-Qaeda is a spent force..highly unlikely. Some wonder if it can survive without its leader. Therein lies the debate about whether AQ is a leaderless ideology or a leader-driven cult-esque movement akin to the LTTE. When Prabhakaran was killed on the edge of that lagoon in May of 2009, that was the effective end of the LTTE as a leader-led, mass movement. But it was certainly not the end of Tamil nationalism/separatism (assuredly not in the Tamil diaspora or doubtfully in South India). Al-Qaeda will obviously not fade away overnight but I find it hard to imagine crowds of henna-bearded Islamist protestors in the sweltering streets of Karachi marching around with al-Zawahiri posters. He’s just simply not iconic or photogenic like OBL nor are there loads of great images of him. I remember when I first traveled across Pakistan way back in 1999, people (well men since I don’t recall socializing with women there then) informed me that almost no Pakistanis had ever heard of OBL prior to Bill Clinton’s cruise missile strikes in Khost the summer before. The American attempt against him, in the wake of the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombings, is what really propelled him to fame in Pakistan, not any kind of indigenous love for him as I would venture to guess most Americans/Westerners would believe.

President Barack Obama visited Ground Zero/the new World Trade Center site today to quietly lay a wreath on the grounds of the new memorial. I never caught site of the guy but got a few nice snaps. The NYPD officers assigned to the event were fairly relaxed and it ended up being a low key affair compared to the 9/11 anniversaries I’ve covered.

Crowds gather around the new WTC tower during President Barack Obama's visit to Ground Zero following the killing of Osama bin Laden. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

A young woman donning a 2008 Shepard Fairey Obama t-shirt captures me on her iPhone in the crowds. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Written by derekhenryflood

May 5th, 2011 at 5:44 pm

The Never Ending 9/11 Story…

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A New York City firefighter troupe marches from Ground Zero to Brooklyn across the Brooklyn Bridge on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in lower Manhattan. ©2010 Derek Henry Flood

New York- After flying over 24 hours (including a brief layover in Kuwait) from Kuala Lumpur to Queens on September 10th, I wound up at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan for yet another 9/11 anniversary. As someone who documented the first anniversary of 9/11 in 2002, after investigating the lives of the Hamburg cell along the Elbe River days before, I never thought that eight years on I would be in Malaysia still investigating 9/11 days before another anniversary of a seemingly unending (yet noticeably dwindling in yearly attendance) mourning centered on the site where architect Minoru Yamasaki’s twin towers, completed in 1971 and 1972, once stood. Whereas the 9/11 memorial service in the first few years was mostly a solemn occasion, now that much of the city has moved on on with itself on a day to day basis, yesterday’s events took on more of a circus atmosphere as masses of mourners have given way to kook conspiracy theorists ranting about this or that and opportunistic operators like Geert Wilders over the Netherlands’ Partij voor de Vrijheid, to make their oft obnoxious voices heard and  thugs calling themselves the “English Defence League” who looked like hooligans directing their latent rage at a religious grouping as if it were an opposing football club. Ground Zero has become a magnet for unwelcome guests to spout unlearned nonsense and well-to-do tourists in over-sized sunglasses gawking at the site as if it were a new Apple store, stomping around the city on their strong currencies on guilt-free trans-Atlantic (and now trans-Pacific) shopping sprees, the WTC just one more “must see” on a itinerary outlined in a Guide de Routard. Many of the roots of 9/11 remain shrouded in mystery and what many around the world have failed to accept is that they will remain in obscurity for perhaps the rest of our collective lifetimes. Many of those involved in the planning of 9/11 are kept out of reach by our own (the American) government or continue to successfully hide amongst tribes in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The answers are out there, but we cannot get to them. Frustrating I know, but no a reason to keep perpetuating untruths and youtube diatribes.

A New York City firefighter passes by a Ground Zero tribute wall outside the annual memorial ceremony on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in lower Manhattan. ©2010 Derek Henry Flood

Written by derekhenryflood

September 12th, 2010 at 2:56 pm

World Trade Serenade

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Written by derekhenryflood

April 7th, 2010 at 9:39 am

Posted in New York

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