New Exhibition Features FEMA Photographs of Ground Zero

New Exhibition Features FEMA Photographs of Ground Zero

FEMA photographer Andrea Booher at ground zero, Fall 2001. Photograph by Doug Welty, FEMA.

Renowned photojournalist and filmmaker Andrea Booher responded to ground zero the day after 9/11 to document Federal Emergency Management Agency’s role in the rescue and recovery effort. In the 10 weeks that Booher had unlimited 24-hour access to the site, she amassed thousands of photographs. Selections from this body of work are featured in the new exhibition “Hope at Ground Zero” opening May 18 in conjunction with an evening program hosted by Booher at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. The following is a selection from an interview with Booher recorded in 2011: 

Q: You’ve seen quite a few disasters in your career up to that point. Did it feel different seeing this site than it did some of the other places you’ve been?

A: It felt different working at the site because everything was so personal. Everybody, every person that you worked with, they were looking for someone. They were looking for a brother, a friend, a sister, everybody there on the site knew somebody that had, of course, they didn’t know that they’d perished at that point. Hope was so strong. 

We just believed that we were going to find survivors. Every single person that you worked with was looking for somebody that they knew and that was incredibly personal. It was a very sensitive place to work. People watched out for one another, from the burliest iron worker, I mean, there was just so much sensitivity and so much caring.

I mean that’s probably what I’ll remember most about working there. There were always—if you were climbing up a beam or climbing down a beam or scrambling over something—there was always a hand reaching up to help you up or down or to tell you to watch out for this or that.

Q: How did you get permission to photograph what was happening and once you were clear how did you first approach the job?

A: I didn’t really have any idea how to approach the job, to tell you the truth. I showed up, that’s what I did, I showed up. And I was very fortunate and I just made it up as I went along because nobody said, “Oh, you will be going out with this team and you will go here and you will do this.” Nobody said anything to me and in many ways I was completely blessed in that sense.    

--By 9/11 Memorial Staff