Free World - September 15, 2021

Photo by @lucasfogliaphoto / “I grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens. But during the …

Photo by @lucasfogliaphoto / “I grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens. But during the summertime, my cousins and I would stay with my grandma. She lived on 129th Street in Harlem. On 9/11, I was in her living room, watching TV. I thought it was a movie when we saw the first plane hit the tower. The news started saying, “We’re under attack, we’re under attack,” and my family started to get really frantic. And that’s what made me realize this is real. My mom was working downtown on Wall Street for the Department of Consumer Affairs. We thought she was at work. She was very, very close. But the subway had stopped and she couldn’t get there. Thank God for that.

It took years to get back to normal. Walking around NYC, especially with friends who were Middle Eastern, was very uncomfortable. It was like we were supposed to live in fear of one another. The summers brought everyone back closer together. There were a lot of block parties, a lot of fundraisers, and a lot of memorials. I’m sure for the people who lost someone, things didn’t ever get back to normal for them. That’s something they had to live with,” says Shalena Laiz.

In this photograph from 2002, during the first summer after 9/11, Shalena is seen sitting behind her cousin Christina Santiago, in the foreground. This photograph is part of my book Summer After, published by Stanley/Barker for the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. For more about the book, visit @lucasfogliaphoto.


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