Ben Orlansky

These are my eyes. This is my city. Welcome to New York.

Some of my photos lie. Or do they? I capture microseconds of humanity. Look at that old man laughing. It warms your heart and puts a smile on your face. Well, actually, he was just picking his teeth, but the results and effects of those little micromoments remain the same. I may lie through my photos, but those lies have affected me greatly, and I hope they do the same for you.

New Yorkers are used to noise. The sounds of people yelling, cars, trains, construction work, and general mayhem are all part of the city we love. That day is the only day I remember absolute silence. Eight and a half million people, and silence. Gone was the aggression and bravado that comes with our city, instantly replaced with the sudden realization that we’re all human, all vulnerable, all the same. There was a change in tone, a change in respect, a softer eye contact. Neighborhoods that usually don’t get along forgot about all the bullshit and stood next to each other and mourned together like humans do. The empty streets were an eerie sight. I remember looking up Coney Island and seeing the column of smoke covering the sky. I remember little pieces of debris in our hair and ash floating down and covering the streets. I remember reaching up and catching something. It was half of a yellow dry cleaning ticket. The person’s name was torn in half. I felt cold when I touched it - I don’t think I’ve ever felt that cold. I remember no longer feeling untouchable. I remember thinking how it paled in comparison to what goes on daily in other parts of the world, and I remember feeling like a shit for only feeling the atrocity when it was in my own backyard. There was no one untouched. Everyone knew at least one person who was there. Most of us knew at least one person who didn’t make it out. I was at a pizzeria watching it on TV when it happened. We all wanted to know what movie was playing.

I woke up at four in the morning last night with what I was sure was an absolutely brilliant idea to write about. Sure that there was no way I’d forget it, I wrote a few words about it in my sleep just to be certain. When I woke up this morning, I looked at the page. There were four words: “Security monitor fast forward”. I have absolutely no idea what I was talking about.