NY Photographer Fred Bonilla remembers the Twin Towers
One of our frequent New York contributors, Fred Bonilla, sent us this article:
It was 1974 and I was a senior at Seward Park High School in Manhattan. I was with Richard Concepcion who was my sidekick and fellow shutterbug at the time. We would shoot loads of Tri-X film as we traveled around Metropolis, then go develop it ati a community center’s darkroom in Alphabet City. We came upon a construction site (now Battery Park City) that had interesting views of New Jersey across the river, but Richie had another plan. He told me to climb up on a mountain of dirt on the construction site, kneel down and extend my arms. Like a manic film director, he shouted for me to move my left arm up & my right arm ever so, then popped a few shots with my Yashica J7. The result was an image of a triumphant 17 year old, holding the huge and looming Twin Towers in his puny arms!
I had misplaced this photo for many years, then came upon it when Cris & I moved from our rental in Bridgeport to our new home in Trumbull. Looking at it now, it reminds me of what I thought then…
I, like many New Yorkers thought that the WTC was the ugly twin sisters of the elegant,stately Empire State Building. Sure, it was taller, but there was no art deco detailing or any other design for that matter. The windows were ugly and there was no thin needle piercing the sky. Even the remake of King Kong featuring the towers was not as good as the original (although everyone in my circle thought Jessica Lange was way prettier than Fay Wray). But in the ensuing years, the twins grew to be parts of us New Yorkers. I went up to the observation tower numerous times to show the skyline to visiting relatives and friends. In the inner observation station, there were floor to ceiling windows that you can stand and press your face to while looking down over 100 floors to the ground. It was then that I dicovered that I had a crippling fear of heights that thankfully prevents me from cleaning my gutters.
I also remember working for a short period at a camera store called Brothers Camera, located at 200 Broadway, just 2 blocks away. I would eat my lunch at the plaza in between the 2 buildings, people watching as only seasoned New Yorkers can do. And I also remember going to the TKTS booth inside one of the buildings to get half-price Broadway show tickets like Fiddler On The Roof for our wedding anniversary. The towers became an accepted part of the city’s landscape.
Then came the morning of September 11th, 2001.
I was off from work (then at Greenwich Photo in CT) and having breakfast when I saw a bulletin on TV of a plane crashing into one of the towers. I called Cris as she was calling me and we agreed that it was probably a small plane that veered off course yet wondered how it caused so much damage. Then,before our eyes, the second plane hit the other tower. We hit panic mode for we knew of loved ones who worked in the area. Phone calls to reach them were fruitless, so we watched as an unspeakable horror unfolded before us.
As communications returned later in the day, we were relieved to hear that our loved ones were safe. Yet tears flowed and our hearts and souls were bruised by the thoughts of so many who perished, thinking that only that morning their minds were set for another day of work on a beautiful September morning. I write this to you on a beautiful morning, much like that day 10 years ago. One can wax on how we have survived and have become even stronger that fateful day.
Yet others will speak of the perils that may still come upon us. I would only like to simply remember those who were lost today, along with those who saw the names of their loved ones etched on the walls of the WTC Memorial this morning.
The flags, pins, T-shirts and banners that will be displayed today will soon be put away for life,as cruel at it is at times will go on. But the loss and pain of those whose tears overflow this morning will never fully heal or disappear. And I write these words a changed man from that day when I climbed a mountain of dirt to claim the twin towers as my own.
And to think that when I was 17, I thought the Twin Towers were ugly…