The Photographs of 9/11

by 24USATVSept. 12, 2021, 4:20 a.m. 21
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This photograph of Michele Defazio remains, for me, a reminder of the kindness of strangers. I think of her every Sept. 11. I watched Michele walk alone toward the Bowery, where a missing persons reporting station had been set up. Carrying her homemade fliers with her husband’s photograph, her grief and worry overwhelmed her, and she paused for the briefest of moments. Strangers on the street also paused to comfort her. The moment was fleeting. Soon after this photograph was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, I called Michele. It was important to me that she knew her story was significant to history. We had a short, somewhat awkward conversation given the strange connection we now shared. She told me she was still working on accepting the loss of her husband and had set up a scholarship fund in his name. In the days following the attack, we would learn that 658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees — including Michele’s husband, Jason — died in the attack. I later covered their memorial service, crying myself while making photographs of the vast sea of people who had come together in their grief.

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