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A firefighter's patch and glove are photographed in black and white.
Photograph: By Richard Wiesel / Courtesy of the New York City Fire Museum

This new NYC Fire Museum exhibition features family members of 9/11 first responders

“The grief does not get any smaller, you just have to learn to grow bigger around it.”

Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Written by
Rossilynne Skena Culgan

A new photography exhibit at the New York City Fire Museum puts family members of 9/11 first responders in front of the camera as a way to illustrate the continuing impact of the attacks.

The exhibition, called “One Day in September,” features a series of profound, editorial-style portraits of first responders’ family members, created by renowned photographer Richard Wiesel. Each photograph is paired with a short interview with the subject. The exhibit also includes images showing personal artifacts, such as fire helmets and badges, provided by first responders’ family members.

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The photographs are rendered in black and white as a way to strip away distractions and focus on emotion, the photographer said in a press release. 

“The aim of this project is to share, with humility and grace, the family members’ journeys of pain, strength, resilience and long-term healing since the tragedy more than two decades ago,” he added.

A video at the exhibition offers a chance to hear directly from those in the images. In the video:

  • Andrea Garbarini talks about the loss of her husband, Charles, a lieutenant in the FDNY. “That day and the many proceeding days were a tragedy for this world. I always say it was like a scar on the face of humanity,” she says.
  • Marie Anaya also lost her husband, Calixto, that day. “When they returned Charlie’s items, they found his shield. I have never cleaned it since that day, so for the past 21 years, it still has glass, dirt and debris on it from the Twin Towers,” she says.
  • Tara Feinberg recalls her father, Alan, as “a very silly, funny, amazing guy. He was a firefighter, he loved saving people, helping people… The grief does not get any smaller, you just have to learn to grow bigger around it.”

“When you’re looking at that image, I’m hoping that you can get a sense of what that person’s about and who they are and what they’re trying to tell us. Where do individuals find growth through trauma? And how do they actually get any growth at all? And is there any redemption at the end of that trauma, and so I approach it from that angle,” Weisel said in a video about the exhibition.

The New York City Fire Museum is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the city’s firefighters, the museum’s executive director said in a statement. 

“We are committed to sharing the stories of the heroes of one of the darkest chapters in our city’s history,” said “Richard Wiesel’s profound portraits remind us of the painful loss of that day, while also offering a measure of hope and healing.”

“One Day in September” is on view at the New York City Fire Museum (278 Spring Street, Hudson Square) through Sunday, October 2. Get your ticket here.

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