Culture

‘I never smiled again’ – the Welshman who witnessed 9/11 first hand

11 Sep 2021 3 minutes Read
(Credit: Chalkie Davies / BBC Wales)

Chalkie Davies has photographed some of the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll. He is acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest photographers.

However, Sully-born Chalkie, who has lived in New York for more than 20 years, has seen images he wishes he could forget.

On the day of 9/11 he was living several blocks away from the World Trade Center. He witnessed the full horror of that day at first hand.

Chalkie posted this on his Facebook page. He has kindly given us permission to reproduce it here.

“I live at Ground Zero, about four blocks away the World Trade Center once stood. On 9/11 I was woken by a scream, an intake of breath, I jumped out of bed to see the building on fire, it looked like a plane had hit it. Then, a few minutes later another plane flew down the Hudson River, turned and banked so as to do maximum damage, and that plane hit the second tower.

“I will spare you the details of the buildings falling, but all the debris covered people walked underneath my window.

“You see, at the time I lived in Soho, about twenty blocks north of the WTC, I lived on the top floor with an uninterrupted view of downtown. I saw the whole thing, and I saw it thru binoculars.

“Internet services were out for a short time, I don’t remember how long, but when they turned back on I wrote an email to some friends in London, it was a blog really, and one of the recipients was Pete Townshend.

“I saw Pete at the Concert for 9/11 and he told me how difficult it was to play to an audience full of First Responders, mouthing the words to his songs with tears running down their faces.

“I have never visited Ground Zero, I never went to gawk at the holes in the ground, and I never have visited the Memorial. It’s just too difficult, I’m one of the people who saw it happen live. It’s a sight I will never forget, ever.

The view from Chalkie’s apartment

“In fact two years later I moved into an apartment just four blocks from the WTC, I felt that people should not be afraid of living here, after all, there are three thousand dead souls flying around, and they needed company.

“Pete was on the radio recently, not sure why, but he ended up talking about the effect of 9/11. He said he had a friend that lived downtown, who witnessed the whole thing, and he didn’t think I ever got over it.

“I wondered what he meant, like all New Yorkers I got on with my life, walked to work as usual, and tried to forget what happened.

“It’s the 20th Anniversary, and I just realised what Pete meant. I never smiled again after that day, never became the happy go lucky person I once was, I simply don’t smile any more.

(The image above) “This is the view from my roof. That gap between the buildings was the World Trade Center, the new one is on the right.”

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