SERENE PASSAGE: A TRAVELLER'S PRAYER AT GROUND ZERO - September 11 - 11, 2011

Judith Leitner
Opening Reception: September 11, 1 - 5 PM

 

In February 2008, during a Sabbatical year, I travelled to New York City to join my family in celebrating our uncle’s 100th birthday. This was indeed a year of magical travel; from my home in Madrid I journeyed through many lofty skies above Spain, Portugal, Holland, Israel, the Americas and China.

I was soulfully mindful of potential peril during these passages. Often I would seek solace in a Hebrew prayer found in the tattered end-pages of a small prayer book that had once belonged to my father. The prayer’s Hebrew name is ‘Tefillat Ha’Derech’, which translates as ‘A Prayer For The Way’, or more commonly, ‘The Traveller’s Prayer’. It is an appeal for divine protection as one prepares for and sets out on journeys and was composed by Talmudic sages in the Middle Ages at a time when travellers--on foot, by coach or ship--were vulnerable to unforeseen, omnipresent danger.

I first encountered Ground Zero at sunrise on a clear, winter morning. As I stood at the precipice of my floor-to-ceiling window, positioned 45 stories above ground level, I had the unnerving sensation of hovering in flight. My glass portal revealed, in the distance below, an expansive abyss in deep shadow and nascent light. Instinctively I began to make pictures, and continued to photograph in the early hours of the next 4 days. I needed to fathom the chaos of form, texture, movement and emotion within Ground Zero’s sacred remnants and construction strata. With each frame and click of the shutter, I heard my heart whisper passages from The Traveller’s Prayer: ‘Lead us in peace…Grant us serene passage, until we arrive at our destination… Rescue us from the hand of every foe and ambush along the way… and from all afflictions that visit and trouble the world’.

This photo essay encompasses everything I experienced during those moments: profound sorrow and compassion for those who were vulnerable and unprotected on another bright morning in September 2001; radical amazement for my own wellbeing--in this place and at this time; astonishment at the magnificent courage of a city to re-imagine, renew and endure; and finally, questions--so many questions--about the nature of good and evil, fate, time, memory and prayer.

I dedicate this work to all memories from above and within Ground Zero--past, present and those yet to come.

© Judith Leitner August 2011