Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reflecting on September 11 in photos from NYC, thoughts from Minnesota September 11, 2020

My son drew this picture of a plane aimed for the twin towers a year after 9/11. He was a third grader in a Christian school and needed to think of a time when it was hard to trust God. To this day, this drawing by my boy illustrates to me how deeply 9/11 impacted even the youngest among us.

 

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001. The date is forever seared into our memories as the day terrorists targeted the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a jetliner flying over Pennsylvania. When those planes crashed. When those towers fell. When fires raged. When thousands died, we grieved. Individually. And collectively as a nation.

 

On the campus of Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, a plaque honors an alumni, Ann Nelson. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2019.

 

Yet, as a Minnesotan nearly 1,200 miles removed from New York City and D.C. and Pennsylvania, I did not experience the same depth of fear and grief as others much nearer to the target sites or with loved ones lost.

 

I reconstructed a tower using the same blocks my son and his friend used on September 11, 2001, to duplicate what they saw on television. These are also the same airplanes they flew into the tower. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Sure, I remember where I was—at home with my kindergarten age son and another boy in my care. I remember how the boys stacked wooden toy blocks and then crashed toy airplanes into the two towers, copying the scenes played and replayed on television because I could not bring myself to shut off the TV.

I recall, too, the eeriness, the feelings of uncertainty and worry and disbelief.

 

The Faribault firefighters pay special tribute to the fallen New York firefighters on their memorial sign. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

But none of this, none of this second-hand experience, compares to those who lived it and saw it. Like NYC photographer Keith Goldstein, a gifted creative whose work I follow on his blog, Far Earth Below. Keith excels in portrait photography. On the street, not the studio. Real. Everyday life. Raw and emotional and difficult sometimes to view. But honest in every way.

Keith was there on 9/11. He saw the devastation, destruction, death as he headed from his East Village home toward the towers. He found himself unable to photograph the horror unfolding before him. But several years later, as construction began on the Freedom Tower, he lifted his camera to undertake a project, “Looking On, Watching the Building of the Freedom Tower.”

The photos of people watching construction of the tower are signature Keith Goldstein. Honest. Emotional. Real. Every time I view Keith’s work, I wonder how he does it. How does he manage these focused, powerful images without his subjects noticing his presence? It’s a gift, a talent honed from years of experience.

That talent was recognized by Olympus Passion, which published a portion of his “Looking On” project in November 2018. Keith shared that publication on his blog today and I invite you to study his images and read the story he wrote about his 9/11 experiences. I expect you will be as impressed as I am by his work and the insights his photos provide.

I invite you also to continue following Keith’s photo blog. I appreciate how his images show me a world far removed from my Minnesota home. A world much different. Yet, a world I need to see because, even though my life and world are much different than his, we still live in this place called America.

Keith is as kind and decent and caring as they come. We’ve communicated occasionally via email, so I know this to be true. Several years ago he gifted me with a colorful print on aluminum of an immigrant vending t-shirts. My choice of photos. Choosing an image proved challenging. But I wanted a portrait. Signature Keith.

As different as we are, we are connected by our love of photography. And by our desire to share the world we view through our cameras.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Remembering: Boys, blocks & 9/11 September 9, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:09 AM
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THROUGHOUT THIS WEEK I’ve contemplated the post I would write about 9/11. And not once have I deviated from my initial idea.

So yesterday I headed to the basement and started digging through totes in search of building blocks and toy airplanes. I found the blocks, but not the planes. Those I discovered later while rummaging through my son’s upstairs bedroom closet.

Ten years ago, on September 11, 2001, my boy was only seven years old. He was home from school that day, not feeling well, when my husband phoned with news of the first plane crashing into the first tower.

I switched on the television. Typically I don’t have the TV on during the day and would not have known about the terrorist attacks until much later.

From that moment on, I could not take my eyes off the screen even though I worried about exposing my son and a younger boy in my care that day to the news coverage. How would they react? And did they truly understand the gravity of what was unfolding in our country?

I attempted to explain the situation, to tell the boys this was “real” and not some television show. They continued playing with whatever toys they had out at the time—I can’t recall.

But clearly they were listening and watching, for soon the two pulled a box of wooden building blocks from the toy box. Then they pulled out the toy airplanes.

I watched as my 7-year-old and his friend constructed teetering towers, then smashed those miniature planes into the towers. Blocks tumbled across the living room carpet.

I reconstructed a tower using the same blocks my son and his friend used on September 11, 2001, to duplicate what they saw on television. These are also the same airplanes they flew into the towers.

They repeated the action: Build the towers. Fly the planes. Smash the towers. Build. Fly. Smash.

I could have cried over the loss of innocence—mine and theirs.

WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL memories of September 11, 2001? Please submit a comment and share your story.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling