There is something inherently powerful in a still photograph.
We've seen it all through our history. Photographs that stayed with us from the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima during World War II to students killed at Kent State.
A photograph and an immediate emotional connection. Sometimes photos capture pure joy like the "Miracle on Ice." Sometimes they capture pain and loss like the thousands of photographs of the missing at the World Trade Center. At other times, photos are able to display remarkable human character, compassion and courage.
Monday will mark six months since passenger planes were hijacked and used as bombs against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Six months when the world as we know it changed and the words "Let's Roll" became a trademark for action aboard a plane that would crash in the Pennsylvania countryside.
Last week, ABC's "Nightline" news show highlighted the work of one photographer at the World Trade Center site. The photographer braved early attempts to keep him away as police officers and officials at the scene blocked his attempts to record history. If he had stopped at that deterrence the loss would have been immense to this generation of Americans and those to follow.
Armed with a tri-pod and equipment, the photographer knew the images in the very trenches of the grim recovery efforts were important. So important, he kept going back. A noted photographer, he tried using a letter from a museum to get past gatekeepers. It had limited effect. Eventually his persistence won over detectives at the site and finally he received a mayoral pass.
He took thousands of photographs. Some, he said, noted the juxtaposition of blue sky and pink clouds with the skeletal remains of skyscrapers as "beautiful things in a horrific place."
The images are stark, vivid and complex. They documented the recovery of bodies found in a stairwell. Other moments seemed to defy all logic as when an officer found a photo in the debris. The face in the photo, peering in uniform from the envelope window, was his own. It came from archive records once stored at the World Trade Center.
A lighter moment documented the discovery of $11 million spilling from a broken vault.
Imagine if the well-meaning gatekeepers had kept the images from the nation.
Tonight CBS is broadcasting images taken at Ground Zero in a special presentation with limited commercial interruption called "9/11." Two filmmakers at the twin towers that day captured the images and created a film.
It's another reminder that access is key to being able to bring those stories home to the rest of us who cannot help remove debris from the World Trade Center, who are not stationed in Afghanistan or who may never see the Pentagon in person.
The effects of Sept. 11 were felt by all Americans and by people around the globe and will continue for years to come. The terroristic attacks changed daily lives and a sense of invincibility. They changed an American role abroad and funding at home. Americans rise to challenges, but they are never served by being kept from the truth whether it is expressed in print or photograph or film.
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