Empty Sky. Pilgrimage to Ground Zero

By Steve Simon

AED 50.00

'This story dates back to just after 9/11. I decided to do a set of pictures documenting the pilgrimage of people who felt compelled to go to Ground Zero, to see with their own eyes, the site of such unbelievable destruction. I wanted to do the project, partly to express my own grief and bewilderment after 9/11, but also because of the reactions I witnessed, which were very powerful and told a story about the event that was different from the photographs being made at the site itself' - Steve Simon

I wasn’t there on that day, but flying home to New York City eight days later, the area around the former World Trade Center was still smoking. It was real.


As I walked around the periphery, I felt a strange resonance. And as I looked around me, the people that felt compelled to come down to the site all seemed in a state of shock. The site has now become an uncomfortable tourist attraction, but during the first three months after the attack when these photos were taken, there was no platform built–people would make their way to the area, drawn like magnets to Ground Zero, for their own reasons.


They would crouch down, stand on cement barriers and snake their way around the site, hoping for a glimpse into the forbidden zone, the sacred burial ground. Peeking through holes in the tarp, anything to satisfy the need to see something of the debris, perhaps for their own confirmation of the unbelievably horrific images, which tortured us over and over again.


On Church Street every clear afternoon at about 3pm, the light from the sun flashed brilliantly into your eyes, making it hard to see. People would lift hands in front of their faces, trying to shield their eyes to glimpse the empty sky in front of them, like an unconscious salute to where the towers used to stand. But the buildings weren’t there, and you felt the wind and the light hit your face and you were instantly reminded. And then there was the smell. Even months after that day, there was an unforgettable burning smell that lingered. On some days it was so thick, it was hard to breathe.


A set of images from Empty Sky was acquired for the permanent collection of the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City.