Beginning the National September 11 Memorial

Four years ago I was asked to photograph the first of many structural beams for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum as they rolled out of Owen Steel Company Inc., in Columbia, S.C., on September 11, 2007. As I arrived on location along with a film crew just before sunrise the workers at Owen Steel were already busy preparing the rigging to lift two massive I-beams onto a 50-foot flat bed trailer for their journey across the United States. There had been many sleepless nights leading up to this moment as a sense of tension and accomplishment filled the air of the massive building, while officials with the NS11MM met with executives of Owen Steel to witness this process. After the beams were lowered onto the trailer and strapped into place, all of the employees made their way to the parking lot to watch the tuck depart and begin to make its way through downtown Columbia toward the unveiling at Finaly Park.

The rest of the morning was filled with incredibly intense emotion as police officers, firefighters, and family members of those who lost their lives in the attacks on the World Trade Center arrived to see the beams first hand. One family member even remarked how seeing and touching the gleaming white steel beams on a truck eventually bound for Ground Zero was incredibly important to them as a means of moving forward.  Its pretty amazing to think that in just 24-hours that all of the victims families might feel this same way, and in 48-hours when the NS11MM opens to the public everyone will get to experience that feeling for themselves.

For me this was an extremely meaningful event to be asked to photograph, and because of that I decided to capture these images in a very reactionary manner to convey the sense of awe and pride that I felt while witnessing this process. The images were originally captured in color using Canon 20D DSLR cameras and were converted to black and white in post production. I chose to make this conversion because I felt that it helped convey what I felt the first time I saw these freshly painted, gleaming white beams surrounded by the grit of an industrial metal fabrication facility, and the symbolism of that juxtaposition.

We would love to hear your thoughts, feelings and reactions to these images, as well as your reaction to finding out that the steel work for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum was handled by a company located right here in Columbia, S.C.  Feel free to share below.

Images are available for editorial license in our National September 11 Memorial & Museum archive gallery.

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