As you can imagine, it is an emotionally difficult place for many different reasons. However, one specific display affected me the most – and the explanation of the cause might be surprising.
Located within the original footprint of the South Tower, the memorial exhibition features portrait photographs of the 2,983 victims of the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, and the February 26, 1993, bombings of the World Trade Center.
Note the description above says “portrait photographs” --but the majority of these photos were not portraits. They were snapshots, in most cases, informal photos taken by friends or family members. And even sadder, some of the names were simply accompanied by a blank plaque with a small green leaf– there was no photo of these people at all.
Those little green leaves made me incredibly sad. Per a note in the display, this meant there was no photo of that person available for display. No visual memory of this person that perished in one of the most horrible tragedies of our lifetime. Did no one ever take photos of this person? Did they not allow themselves to be photographed? Did they not have a photograph that met the minimal quality of what the exhibit required to display? Whatever the reason, those little green leaves bothered me deeply.
So many people talk to me about their fears of being photographed. Seeing this exhibit that lacked so many photos brought this to mind, and led me to a thought --instead of focusing on your insecurities the next time a camera comes out, think of your loved ones, and how much it will mean to them years from now to have photos of you from all the different stages of your life.
Because as we get older, the way we hold onto memories of certain moments in time is often through photos—don’t you want evidence that you were there, reveling in the moment?
The gift of hindsight is powerful. Just a few years or a decade from now, you may look back at that picture you didn’t want to have taken with a different perspective, and think, “Oh, honey, I am so sorry you didn’t know how special you were, and that you were so worried about something as silly as weight, or gray hairs, or what you had on.”
Photographs matter, because they capture moments of our lives as they pass which may seem to have little importance to us at the time. The significance, however, may be profound for others later on, as they search for the person we once were, or the places we once knew. They can be small pieces of a jigsaw that complete the larger picture of our lives. Or fill that blank spot where a little green leaf was.