What I Saw: Ground Zero

Photo by Samantha Appleton, '97.

On the night of Sept. 12, I was a volunteer in search and rescue efforts and was able to approach Ground Zero. Although the search effort was concentrated in the immediate area where the towers had stood, the peripheral buildings were frighteningly dark and wore gaping holes in their fašades. When I took this shot late in the night, workers were craning their necks to look up at one of these adjacent buildings. Arms seemed to be reaching out of broken windows, waving lighters in the black, smoky night. Occasionally workers would break their silence and ask each other about it: Could those lights really be survivors trying to communicate with us? Some of us wanted to investigate, even though it was too dangerous to get closer to the debris. But when the first rays of dawn spread to the building, another sliver of hope was lost: Metal rods, approximately the length of an arm, could be seen swinging in the morning wind. In the eerie work lights at night, the metal had played a cruel trick on hopeful but exhausted eyes. No survivors were found that night—or any night since.—Samantha Appleton, '97, is a former Daily photographer and reporter who now free-lances photography for Associated Press and the New York Times.

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