Being a native New Yorker there is no way to describe the feelings I had when the opportunity to photograph from the very top of Freedom Tower was given to me. The old saying couldn’t have been more true. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This was a rare opportunity indeed. I was being given access to a location not many photographers will ever have access to.
While 9/11 may seem like a distant memory to many of us, I still remember where I was and the emotions I felt on that fateful day. I was still working my corporate job at Microsoft and I was at a conference in Seattle. I woke up to emergency news reports on every channel and I remember thinking to myself “what movie is this?” Only to be smacked with reality as I went from channel to channel. Shortly thereafter, the first tower fell! All I could think about were all my friends and family that worked and lived in Manhattan. It was an attack on America.
Fast forward to this day in late 2013, I was given an amazing opportunity to go to the very top of Freedom Tower. Not the observation deck, but the maintenance level another 5-10 stories higher. Like I said, it’s not what you know, but who you know.
Riding in the maintenance elevator all the way to the top was an incredible high – literally and figuratively. Slowly watching the city of New York reveal itself as we rose above the other buildings. Last stop was the 100th floor. Yet for us, it was just the beginning of our next leg of the journey. We now had to climb multiple levels of scaffolding all the way to the top. No windows exist on these levels, so there is nothing but a mesh windscreen standing between you and the elements and of course a 100+ story drop.
The wind was incredible at this point – just howling. I remember holding on to the ladder for dear life. Step. Grab. Step. Grab. This was all I could think of. I am not necessarily afraid of heights, but “comfortable” was definitely not a word I would use to describe my feelings at the time. Not going to lie, I was toting a 30k+ camera system in my Phase One IQ260 – so that was the one thing I was worried about more than my own safety on the ladder.
Once you made it to the very top… it was just incredible! You could see for miles and miles! This was like no view I had ever seen of NYC. No windows, no obstructed views, just an incredible peace and SILENCE. I remember saying “what the…” to which I was quickly educated on the dynamics of the building. Apparently the way it was designed and because of the physics of wind, as the wind hits the side of the building, it is guided up the side of the building and up and over the building, well over our heads. This was just incredible. Eerily so, but incredible nonetheless. Imagine sitting in your quiet living room listening to your tv. Now turn off the tv, that’s how quiet it was. No yelling or shouting to the people we were with, just normal conversation levels.
Now the real fun begins. Making a great photograph! After all, this was why I was here.
Walking around the top of freedom tower and enjoying an unparalleled and uninhibited 360 degree view of NYC, Brooklyn, and New Jersey is something I will never forget! It was an honor to have the opportunity to document this part of American history.
For myself and Taylor, this was a once in a lifetime experience and one we are not soon to forget. Thank you to everyone who made this possible for us. You know who you are.
I hope you enjoy the images.
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