My 9-11 – Honoring those that lost their lives…..
Original post from Sept 10, 2011 – Only one day away from the 10 year anniversary of 9-11 and I sit at my desk with my cup of coffee as I was doing that very day 10 years ago when the world changed forever. I can’t help but recount that day and how the whole tragic event unfolded for me and how I knew that my life would never be the same.
When I awoke that crisp fall morning in Park City, I did my usual routine of answering emails while I drank my coffee and I saw on my Yahoo home page that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. My 1st thought was that a small plane had hit the tower and I really didn’t think much of it. I took my plate of french toast to the living room and turned the TV on to see if the news was talking about it and of course I was horrified by what I saw like all of us were. I was quickly reminded of years ago when I was in NYC and had dinner at Windows on the World, the restaurant that was at the top of one of the towers, I didn’t remember which one but I just remember being so struck at how amazing these structures were and how many people had to be in there. I had no idea what lay ahead and how with each passing hour the horror would continue to mount. My eyes filled with tears as I watched the building burn and then to my horror the other plane hit the 2nd building, I didn’t know what to do or what to think except that this was America and this can’t happen here – this is was the land of the free and the home of the brave. The tears continued to roll down my cheeks onto my french toast!
I had been shooting adventure sports stock photography full time since 1989 and had a few photo shoots and trips planned, one was to go Heli-hiking in the Canadian Rockies and I was scheduled to fly into Calgary on September 12th. I thought to myself I am so glad that tomorrow I will leave this nightmare and be hiking on beautiful glaciers in Canada and the world will be alright again by the time I got home. It had to be, right? As I continued to watch the destruction and they grounded all of the planes and talked about how it could be weeks before planes would fly again I thought, wait, this is in New York, this won’t affect me but as the days passed it affected me in ways that I never even imagined. I had never felt so alone before or heard the world outside so quiet – it’s as if the entire planet just stood still while this tragedy was unfolding before our eyes.
At the time of the tragedy I was at a crossroads with my photo business, my burnout level was very high and I felt like a change was coming but I didn’t know what that would be. I lived and breathed photography and thought I would be shooting adventure sports photos until I was too old to chase people up mountains and down mountain bike trails. It never occurred to me that I would be “worn out” by the business but it seemed on September 11th and the days that followed my decision would be made for me. As the days and weeks went on and the shock waves continued and the stock photography business was hit hard, especially when it came to ad revenues and the editorial world which is of course was where a bulk of my income came from. My Heli-hiking trip to Canada never happened nor did my wildflower trip to Crested Butte, my safe little life as I knew it was over and I had to come up with Plans B, C, D and E if I wanted to stay afloat and survive in this strange new world.
Not only was my world shaken but so was my confidence and sense of security, I felt lost in a world that I didn’t recognize and didn’t like one bit. I felt like I was walking around in a cloud for months and in my daily errands I could tell other people felt the same way. All concerns about work and making money seemed to fall away, they seemed so trivial and I just couldn’t shake it. All I could think about was the sadness that I felt for those that lost their lives and their families but at the same time how happy I was that me, my friends and family were safe. Then the dreaded phone call came and it was my little sister, Kristen who was in the Army Reserves at the time, telling me that she was going off to war – WHAT? My little sister was going to be in harms way? No, this was too close to home, I didn’t know how to process it but at the same time I felt such a sense of pride that she, Lt Kristen L Rouse, was going to fight for our country and what she believed in. She proudly served two tours of duty in Afghanistan – I am happy to report that she has returned home safely and is living in Brooklyn and working for the City of New York. She continues to be my hero!
I continued to eke out a living in the stock photo business for another year and then quietly tucked my camera into my camera bag and there it stayed for almost 6 years. Life went on and time helped me find a few other paths in life but alas the camera kept calling and now I am friends with it again. This time I chose to shoot photos for fine art as opposed to shooting the adrenaline filled photos of my past for the stock and editorial world. Life goes on and changes but each and every year around September 11th I stop and take myself back to those days when any shred of innocence that was left in the world was snuffed out. I vowed that I would somehow bring it back in my life if I could and today I feel like I do that through the nostalgic subjects that I photograph, they always take me back to simpler times when the world was still a big friendly place.
My thoughts and prayers go out once again for those heroes that gave their lives on that horrible day and for the ones that continue to overseas as well as all of the grieving families. I wish for a more peaceful friendly world and I know that any change I want to see in the world has to begin with me. Gandhi said it best; “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.
Peace – Cheyenne