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Ground Zero 360º

Category: Northern Ireland

Published: 4th May 2012 14:00:18

It is over 11 years since two planes smashed into the heart of New York but yet images from September 11 2001 have not lost their ability to stun.

Poignant pictures from photographer Nicola McClean and paintings by artist Jim Fitzpatrick have been brought together to offer a chilling reminder of one of the most shocking days in world history.

Memory fades, but step into the Ground Zero 360º exhibition and you can not help but be stunned by the scale of the personal devastation faced by New Yorkers at the time

Much of what we remember from the day when two planes crashed into the heart of one of the world's iconic cities is TV footage that would not have looked out of place in a Hollywood film.

It is easy to forget the reality, the aftermath and the struggle of people who had their lives changed forever - McClean's photos remind us of a more intimate side to a tragedy.

Nicola McClean's husband, Paul McCormack was working in New York as a police officer at the time. He explains the inspiration behind the exhibition:

"My wife Nicola was photographing down there on the day and the days and weeks thereafter. She was deeply affected by the whole incident. By the people coming up to her, the families that were desperately searching for victims.

"She wanted to do something with what she had, the images she took, so that people would never forget," he said.

One side of the gallery, separate from McClean's photography is a wall full of posters - copies of desperate appeals from family and friends. The smiling photographs of missing loved ones, many never to be seen alive again creates a moment of reflection.

Behind this wall, a frantic hour long mix of police radio messages give a sense of the chaos and disbelief of the situation many people on the streets of New York found themselves in.

Included among the messages is one from Moira Smith whose posthumous Medal of Valour sits alongside her police hat.

A rusted beam of twisted metal separates Moira Smith's display and that of a blackened fireman's helmet belonging to Kevin O'Rourke - a fireman who was 41 when he died rescuing people from Tower One of the World Trade Centre. Like Moira Smith, he was also awarded a posthumous Medal of Valour.

Gallery visitor Larry Murray, like most people, can recall where he was at the time of the attacks:

"I'd taken a half day off work. I was in the pub and I remember seeing the second plane hit the towers and there was just complete silence, disbelief. People were just shaking their heads.

"I even get goosebumps thinking about it now," said Mr Murray.

An amateur photographer, he says some of the pictures on display remind him of darker times during the troubles in Northern Ireland:

"I used to work in the tallest building in Belfast at one stage and I remember looking over the city. It's just miniature in scale compared to what happened here.

"I think anything conflict-wise helps to educate people and hopefully things that like will never happen again, so it acts as a reminder that these things can't and shouldn't happen again," said Larry Murray.

Jim Fitzpatrick, the man responsible for producing possibly the most famous image of Che Guevara said he was very honoured to be part of the exhibition organised by Paul McCormack and Nicola McClean.

"My piece is a tribute to the fallen, to everyone that died that day, but especially to the fallen from the towers. Over 200 people jumped from those towers and I can only imagine the inferno they were facing that that was a better choice, hopefully none of us will ever have to face a choice like that."

"It's such a sensitive subject, it seers the American psyche that everybody wanted to avoid it. I intended on doing work like this many years ago after the event but simply baulked at it, but Nicola and Paul gave me a reason to do it."

Ground Zero 360° will run at the Public Records Office for Northern Ireland until May 25.

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BBC News, 2012. Ground Zero 360º [Online] (Updated 4th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1426572/Ground-Zero-360 [Accessed 16th Apr 2014]

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