Talking About The Unspeakable

Talking About The Unspeakable – New Yorkers talk about September 11

In an attempt to make sense of the events of September 11, we asked writers, filmmakers, architects, historians, politicians, and cultural leaders to offer their perspectives on what it all might mean.


IT BRINGS BACK CHILDHOOD FEARS…OF THE DAY KENNEDY WAS SHOT, of the Bay of Pigs. We’re not used to basic childhood insecurity–that feeling that your world isn’t safe. The difference in my world now is that I’m a mother of a two-year-old daughter. So I’m not only thinking that my world isn’t safe but that hers isn’t either. This tragedy will mark her generation. It will change their world forever. The saddest thing I heard was from a woman who told me that her granddaughter goes to a Japanese-American nursery school here. It was closed today because 19 of the fathers were missing.

From July 2000 to September 2001 we photographed these portraits as part of a portfolio reflecting the city’s myriad cultures.

As we were going to press on September 11, the landscape of New York forever changed, but its spirit, embodied in these vibrant groups, prevails.




JANUARY 11, 2001: MARINA BERNARD DAMIBA (the 30-year-old principal of the Bronx Preparatory charter school) and some of her 154 students.

MARINA DAMIBA: “The day after the disaster we closed our school and told the parents we’d open at 10 a.m. Thursday. The next day children started showing up at 8–because they just wanted to be there. I’m proud of us. We definitely have the New York spirit here. On the wall of a fifth grade classroom we have a sign: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER EVER GIVE UP! It’s still up–and will stay that way.”


SEPTEMBER 10, 2001: Martin Scorsese and his cinematic coterie look out over the city they’ve immortalized in film. From left: PAUL SCHRADER (screenwriter, director), NICHOLAS PILEGGI (writer, producer), GRIFFIN DUNNE (director, actor), JAY COCKS (screenwriter), MARTIN SCORSESE (director), THELMA SCHOONMAKER (editor), JANE ROSENTHAL (producer), NORA EPHRON (screenwriter, director, producer).

GRIFFIN DUNNE: “New York holds more real life heroes than any other location on earth. People are talking about rebuilding the World Trade Center, and I think that commitment to rebuild and keep going will invigorate the film industry and invigorate the stories that we tell. When you shoot in New York, people from the tiniest farm communities or from Islamabad recognize the city without having to be told in the title card. It’s the people and the character and the diversity of New York that are the city’s true landmarks.”


JULY 30,2001: For more than four decades they’ve kept the city swinging. From left: LORRAINE GORDON (owner, the Village Vanguard), WYNTON MARSALIS

(trumpeter; artistic director, Jazz at Lincoln Center), RENEE ROSNES (pianist), ALBERT MURRAY (author), JIMMY HEATH (saxophonist), JON HENDRICKS (vocalist), PERCY HEATH (bassist), ERIC REED (pianist), ILLINOIS JACOUET (saxophonist). Styled by Sarajane Hoare

ALBERT MURRAY: “The spirit of jazz is one of improvisation. It’s free-form and random. But you change the key or the tempo and the music adjusts. This emergency is one of the biggestblows Americans have had to deal with. But we will, because improvisation is part of the American character and procedure. America invented jazz, which is perhaps the greatest metaphor for the American way.”


July 24, 2001. The political media, and business icons who have made Manhattan the worlds capital gather every weekday around 1 p.m. at the Four Seasons Grill Room. Standing, from left JULIAN NICCOLINI (managing partner Four Seasons Restaurant) ALEX VON BIDDER (managing partner Four Seasons Restaurant), PETE PETERSON (chairman the Blackstone Group, LIZ SMITH (syndicated columnist), MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (founder, Bloomberg LP) LEONARD LAUDER (chairman, Estee Lauder) HENRY KISSINGER (chairman, Kissinger Associates), BARRY DILLER (chairman & CEO USA Networks) BARBARA WALTERS (anchor ABC) CARL MCCALL (New York state comptroller) LESLEY STAHL (60 Minutes, CBS), FELIX ROHATYN (former ambassador to France; president, Rohatyn Associates, LLC), LOU DOBBS (Lou Dobbs Moneyline, CNN), Seated from left: JACK RUDIN (cochairman, Rudin Management Co.), MORT JANKLOW (senior partner, Janklow & Nesbit Associates) PAULAZHAN (anchor, CNN) DIANESWYER (anchor, ABC), EDGAR BRONFMAN JR. (executive vice chairman, Vivendi Universal) DONAL D MARRON (chairman, UBS America).

DONALD MARRON: “New Yorkers come together best when faced by the need to accomplish new and better things. The tragedy is going to focus competitors, Democrats and Republicans, on a single thing making the economy even stronger and doing it as quickly as possible. With businesses in New York, I’ve never seen as much sharing of ideas and willing ness to join together. America really pulls together when faced by a common enemy, and this extra strong country will get event stronger as a result of greater focus and even greater use of our unmatched resources.”


JULY 18, 2001. The flock of tastemakers who have nourished New York’s culinary scene. From left, DREW NIEPORENT (Myriad Restaurant Group, Montrachet, Tribeca Grill, Nobu), ARIAN EDAGUIN (D’Artagnan), DANIEL BOULUD (Daniel, Cafe Boulud), NINA GRISCOM (columnist Food & Wipe), JEAN-GEORGES VONGERICHIEN (Jean-Georges, Dune, the Mercer Kitchen Vong), FRIGRIPERT (Le Bernardin), ALAIN DUCASSE (Alain Ducasse). Styled by Sarajane Hoare.

DREW NIEPORENT. The New York food community is the greatest food community in the world. It’s the diversity, the huge selection, and the wealth of people in New York’s restaurants that makes them so vibrant and special. The culture of food is part of the fabric of the city. We’re going to bounce back in a huge way, because we’ve built something that’s everlasting. It’s not going to crumble based on one incident.


July 6, 2000: Photographer DAVID LACHAPELE (center) and his factory of stylists, set designers, and counterculturalists make sure the city doesn’t lose its edge.

DAVID LACHAPELLE: “The variety here–the mix of people, their ages their backgrounds–heats things up in ways that don’t happen anywhere else. The wealthy and the marginal make equal time on the sidewalks. They did before. They still do. They always will.”


JUNE 6, 2001: The pioneers who helped make urban culture a global phenomenon. From left: DAMON DASH (producer, Roc-A-Fella Records), RUSSELL SIMMONS (founder, Def Jam Records, Phat Farm), LL COOL J(rapper, actor), KIMORA LEE-SIMMONS (former model; creative director, Baby Phat), KEVIN LYLES (president, Def Jam Records), SANTE D’ORAZIO (fashion photographer).

SANTE D’ORAZIO: “I knew this disaster would stop me and force me to think and feel differently about things, to consider what’s valuable and important in life. That’s what will happen to a whole new young generation. We were getting isolated and superficial. Now it’s important for us to grow, to rebuild ourselves from within.”


MAY 30, 2001: Wall Street’s blue-chip kingpins unwind at their Sunday night poker game. Clockwise from top left: HARRY JOE “COCO” BROWN JR. (president, Brown Companies) NELSON PELTZ (Chairman and CEO, Triarc Companies), JAMES A. FINKELSTEIN (president and CEO, News Communications), LEON D. BLACK (CEO, Apollo Advisers), SAMUEL D. WAKSAL (president, CEO, and director ImClone Systems), CARL ICAHN (president Icahn & Co.).Styled by Sarajane Hoare

JAMES FINKELSTEIN: “When I look back on these pictures I realize how frivolous parts of our lives were. Day after day, when you see the incredible rescue efforts of the firemen, the police, and others, I know there is tremendous goodness in the world and that we will rebuild our city, our nation, our lives, and yes–someday may be we’ll even play poker again.”

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