Video: Remembering 9/11 Through Ink and Images
Michael J. Rachel, a trucker and amateur photographer, describes what the Twin Towers mean to him and why he photographs the Freedom Tower as it rises.
There are people who feel a certain connection to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the two New York City skyscrapers that were destroyed on that sunny September morning 10 years ago.
While too many residents in Cranford and the surrounding areas are connected by the loved ones they lost in the attacks, others feel a connection for different reasons. Michael J. Rachel of Scotch Plains, and husband of Cranford Patch Editor Toniann Antonelli, is one of those people.
A trucker and an amateur photographer, Rachel used to work for a company that delivered to the mall beneath the World Trade Center. As he unloaded his truck, the proprietor would greet him and offer a muffin, beverage and small talk. On Rachel’s drive to his home in Union County, NJ, from his cross-country, tractor-trailer travels, the Twin Towers on the horizon let Rachel know he was home.
The World Trade Center was finished in April 1973, three months before Rachel was born. He spent a great deal of his childhood visiting with family in Staten Island, and the Twin Towers were always a familiar sight. From the young age, he was in awe of the buildings.
He’d never known the skyline without the towers. He’s taken his young nieces to Ground Zero and a nearby firehouse, stressing to the girls the significance of the place and the bravery of the emergency workers who responded to the attacks.
He now spends some of his spare time photographing the construction of the Freedom Tower and the surrounding buildings that are part of the redevelopment of Ground Zero.
A few years after 9/11, he worked with Thane, a tattoo artist at Ink Spot in Linden, to design the black-and-grey tattoo now on his right arm — the familiar image of the Twin Towers with the Brooklyn Bridge in the foreground. As the anniversary of the attacks approaches, the artist refreshed the ink. Rachel says the tattoo means as much to him now as when the needle first touched his arm.