The little girl above is my granddaughter, Sabrina Rose. For the past three years, five days a week, her 15-minute walk to and from pre-school in the West Village in downtown New York offered vivid reminders of 9/11, including the fence behind her in the photo.
Sabrina wasn't born when the tragedy happened, but she's lived her whole life in what would have been the shadows of The World Trade Center. Both her father and her uncle lived downtown on 9/11/01, and had friends who worked in the twin towers.
From his apartment, my son Cary saw the second plane hit, and watched the iconic buildings fall. (His former university classmate, Jeremy Glick, was one of the heros of United 93, who helped cause the plane to crash in a Pennsylvania field, rather than hit a building in Washington, D.C. Last year I made a pilgrimage to the crash site, and wrote about it here
My older son Randall, who had held business meetings in the World Trade Center just days before the attack, volunteered at Ground Zero in the days after, offering food to firefighters and other workers in the sulphurous, burning rubble.
Sabrina's school is right next door to FDNY Squad 18, with its proudly painted firehouse doors. The firefighters are good neighbors to the preschoolers and invite them to sit in the firetrucks.
That Greenwich Village firehouse lost seven firefighters on 9/11.
On a memorial plaque at the firehouse, a line by poet Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself says: "They have cleared the beams away, they tenderly Lift me forth."
Between the school and firehouse, and Sabrina's apartment, is St. Vincent's Hospital. Firefighters treated at the hospital after the initial attack returned to the WTC site only to be killed when the towers collapsed. Walls of the hospital displayed photos and information in the weeks after 9/11, placed by people who hoped against hope that their loved ones were lost, not killed.
The link fence across the street at a parking lot now displays hundreds of tiles, created by individuals and groups, children and artists from around the world. In their simplicity and variety the tiles are haunting, and I have photographed many of them over the years.
Tiles for America has remained a people's memorial for eight years, a testament to those who lost their lives in the towers that once loomed dramatically above this fence. The tiles ensure that Sabrina and others who walk by this corner will not forget 9/11 -- on this day of remembrance, or on any day.