Many months have elapsed now since I began documenting Ground Zero. While it was an honor for me to be the eyes for the masses, I'd be lying if I said it was joyous to go there all the time. As I stated before, it is hallowed & sacred ground. Each day I was there was a reminder of the horror of September 11th. The more things I have been forced to see, the more I have been deeply affected.

However, in contrast, it has been a blessing for me to work side by side with the recovery teams. Everyone worked very hard at Ground Zero and nobody ever complained, but it's the FDNY that impressed me most. I watched daily as Firemen looked for their missing sons and brothers. I have seen a courageous widow stand in the honor guard at Ground Zero, saluting her best friend's fallen FDNY son while her husband remained missing. And all anybody wants is to bring their loved one home so they can have a respectful and deserved farewell. All you have to do is speak for a minute to a New York City Fireman to see the care in their eyes and their compassion. When a civilian was found, the Firemen paid as much attention to being gentle and thorough as if the victim were their own relative. One of my favorite photographs is of a team of 8 Firemen gently tucking in the flag around a civilian before they were carried away. I was there and I watched and shot as these big, husky Firemen turned into gentle giants, giving 100% respect to the fallen civilian.

One night I was sitting and icing an injury to my heel. Every fireman who walked past stopped and said "Are you okay? What happened? Need anything?" I was shocked at first, but as time has gone by, I have learned that this is who they are. It's a part of them. To help people. That's why they didn't think twice about running into the burning Towers to try and rescue people; And that's why so many of these Heroes are gone.
HERO. It's a word that's used quite frequently now. Some people are tired of the word. But you know, IT'S TRUE. They really are heroes. I often feel about 5 inches tall when chatting with them down in the hole. But comparison is a bad thing and we all have our own little mission to do in relation to 9-11.

The volunteers were amazing. They came from all over the USA, sometimes just for a one-day opening as a helper that became available. Their kindness was heart-warming to see. When we would walk into St. Paul's Church, we'd be smothered with kindness and "Can I get you anything?" Although St. Paul's Church turned into a bit of a power game towards the end with some who managed the Church forgetting what Ground Zero was about, that fact cannot overshadow the LOVE that ruled within those historical Church walls for the first 6 months after the attacks. One shouldn't let a few bad apples spoil the bunch. Many good-hearted, loving souls came through there and gave of their hearts to support the rescue workers. Perhaps the same rule that applied in the hole should have applied to the Church staff: No workers can serve more than a 30-day tour as it is too stressful and unhealthy. After 30-days, peoples tart to lose touch with the "real" world as the effects of being around so much pain can wear your mind down...Oh well, just a thought in retrospect. It's only an opinion...Letters from children all over America adorned every open wall. Their innocent letters can bring you to tears if you let them. Most of them ended in a simple line: "I'm sorry your buildings fell down...We Love you..." Often times the children would wrap candy bars with special letters filled with words of encouragement. Children's innocence is what's so moving. It's also comforting to know they are not fully comprehending the horror of what happened.

When I am shooting, my thick skin comes on. I try to emotionally hide behind my lens because it's a little safer there. I try to block out the horrors and focus on what my job is. Not always easy. I was not trained for wartime photography, which is what this is. Many mornings I awoke in Trinity Church and said "I can't do this anymore. It's too much". But I realized quickly that there was noone else down there documenting, except for one man, an archive photographer from the Museum of the City of New York who came down every so often with a giant view camera and took stills of the ever-changing architecture. However, nobody was documenting the emotions in the hole. So, I persisted and tryed to capture the dramas that unfolded each day. If I didn't do it, then history would be lost. And so I am grateful that I had this honor to shoot these historical heroes and recoveries each day. The magnitude of that giant hole goes well beyond the 17 acres of land. To stand there and gaze, which most workers do on their lunch breaks, is a pointless task. Why? Because just as it was on September 11th, it is incomprehensible for our senses. As I often gazed about the ruins, I realized there was no conclusion to this. I want one, but there is none. Taliban killed, terrorists arrested, bank accounts frozen - Yes, it all builds towards a safer future but the bottom line is we can never bring back all the people who perished at The World Trade Center, The Pentagon and on the airplanes.

We are faced with the grim reality of taking a big gulp and trying to move forward. All we can do is remember each of these Heroes. Remember the Pilots, Passengers & Flight Attendants who boarded those planes that morning of the 11th with the simple goal of reaching their destinations. Remember the Wall Street Brokers who kept our economy going strong - the Busboys at Windows on the World who worked so hard for little pay but hoped one day for a better life - the Janitors who made the marble shine - the secretaries and clerks that ran the front desks of all those offices - the Mail Room Workers - the visitors from numerous states who were assembled for a breakfast meeting and probably wanted to visit Chinatown & Times Square during their trip to New York - the Security Guards who tried to always keep the Towers safe - the Government workers and Interns at the Pentagon who had no idea what would happen that morning when they swiped their I.D. cards - WTC workers like Jimmy Quinn, a 24-year-old victim who used to beam with pride when he told his friends how he loved working in the North Tower. So many people - so many cultures - so many stories - so many races. So much loss.

One day in February I went to have a beer with Tommy, a 62-year-old firefighter from Ground Zero. On our way to Brady's Bar, we walked past a street and he stopped. He said, "Gary, you see this street here? I will never forget it - it was soon after the South Tower had collapsed & everyone was running." Tommy pointed, "Right over there was a little old lady lying on the ground with a piece of the airplane landing gear beside her. It had struck & killed her. She was gone & I had to try & help others who were still alive; I mean there was no saving her, Gary. But, I could not leave her side, Gary - I just couldn't do it..I stayed until an ambulance came and got her out of there.." Well, I think that story says alot about the heart of a fireman.

There is a photo of a female Chaplain on this epilogue. Her name is Mitties. She is very special and I will never forget the arctic, windy night I met her. I was with a rescue worker who was in need of some spiritual guidance after being emotionally down from recovering many victims. We stopped by the Ground Zero Morgue which made me somewhat uneasy. But I went with him and it was there that I met Mitties. When a victim is found at Ground Zero, Mitties blesses them in private. She is a small woman in size but huge in heart. She has a warm and calming way about her - making it easy to see why my friend wished to be in her presence. It was 1:00 A.M. and Mitties was done with her duties blessing the recovered victims. I asked her if I could take her portrait as I was instantly moved by her role at Ground Zero & how she stays strong. I thought people would want to see this amazing woman. She was so humble & you could really feel the work of GOD in her. She obliged me but wanted to leave the vicinity of the morgue. We walked over to the outskirts of the 17 acre site where the Towers once stood and she stepped into a shadow. The photo I took captures so much of that moment because it says who she is: A quiet hero who hides in the shadows doing God's work without the need for adulation. Thank you to Mitties and the other Ground Zero Chaplains for blessing the departed.

Well, I hope that this site has been emotionally helpful to you. It has been a long ,grueling, yet worthwhile project. I have just been given the go-ahead by UFA to start releasing these images to the media, so odds are you will start hearing of them and my work in the near future. I hope to have a book available of all these images and more in the next year. I recently went to Chicago to donate to my old childhood schools many of my images and uniforms worn in the hole. It was beautiful to see how the students were so receptive to my experiences. I wanted to help them connect to the events of 9-11 and I think it was beneficial. I also did this because I wanted them to see that although evil permeated our country on 9-11, LOVE was abundant in the heart of Ground Zero and that the terrorists could not kill out spirit. All they did was succeed in making us a stronger and more prideful country.

I get many emails all the time and I try to answer them all on my off time. Some questions I get include 'What was it like when you realized the Bible page was Genesis 11?" My answer is I cried. I wept harder than I have ever wept. The symbolism represented to me that God was watching over the victims when they perished. It also was a sign for me to carry on with my photographic duries. I also get asked, "What was it like when you found someone?" It was nice to know that one more family would get their loved one home...And lastly, another question is, "How is it you were the one who got to do this job.?" And my answer is: I have no idea. FATE.....When people say "Wow, what an opportunity", I always say, "No, it wasn't an opportunity...It was an HONOR and a PRIVILEDGE."

I hope to find a wondeful home for all these images in the near future along with some artifacts given to me as a thank you for my work. I have been receiving requests to speak at different venues - and I hope to do them all while at the same time having periods to heal from this enormous experience. I hope that, while only a small portion of my work, gives you a deeper understanding of my experiences there at Ground Zero and in turn can help you heal. A special thank you to my mother, Sharon, for putting a camera in my hands at age 13 so I would have a hobby to focus on. Also, a special hello to all my friends in Barrington, Illinois , Austin, Texas and Highland Park, Illinois. Lastly, a very warm thank you to my new friends in the FDNY who are slowly recovering from the tremendous loss of friends and family.

May God Bless You All.
Gary Suson
New York City - May 29, 2002

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