Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Two Tragedy Anniversaries: Film and then Digital

Yours Truly just returned from a jaunt for a quarter-day to Orangeville, Ontario and wended back on Highway 25 and at one point marveled at the proximity of ducks floating amid chunks of ice on a picturesque rivulet.
Also marvel-worthy was that on this entire trip WBFO, the Middling City's National Public Radio outpost was available: whereas most times it evaporates into the air once one rounds a bend in the lake, it hung strong in the air.

On Highway 25 on the return trip there were stories afoot/a-air about today being the anniversary of Crash 3407 five years ago in Clarence, New York, and then about it being the anniversary of the burning of Little Harlem Hotel which once stood at 494 Michigan Avenue in Buffalo, New York.
I was friends with the final owners of Little Harlem, The Trammel Family, and heard of the fire and grabbed my camera and ran back to the site watching the water cannons soaking, unsuccessfully, the grease fire in the center of the building.
There were rivers of water flowing out the front door and I stood next to one of the Trammels and we both had tears running down our cheeks: Little Harlem was an incredible place even when I went there to see music and to sip and to dance in the 80's and 90's, well past its epochal past. But what had remained of Little Harlem was that it was a rare place that bridged the eastern and western sides of the city, everyone was welcomed there. And now it was gone.
I was lucky to have owned a jacket that was previously owned by Diane Montgomery, the club's owner. I had been at the estate liquidation with a friend and bid on probably the least-desired items in the sale: two wooden coat racks (one of which I still own). There were a bunch of invaluable articles of clothing on the racks and they were part of the deal. Underneath a lot of polyester and old and yellowed dry cleaning bags was the jacket. The large inside satin pocket was embroidered with a large DM.
Yours Truly lost this jacket in the black hole of moving in one of my several moves in the 80's and 90's.
So Little Harlem was gone, a glorious building of good vibes and Art Deco class.

Today is also the anniversary of the crash of Flight 3407, an inconceivable tragedy due to pilot error.
The night of that crash Yours Truly was photographing Donna Brazile, former adviser to Bill Clinton and many other Democratic candidates. She is now a highly-respected analyst.
She was speaking at University at Buffalo as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series there: I was making images of her with select members of the U.B. community in the green room, and then during her talk.

In the green room she was still shaken by her flight that afternoon, commenting again and again about it. I was struck by this and thought that surely she's had other bad flights.
When I left U.B. that night it was almost at the time of the crash, which was probably about four miles away as the crow flies, as they say.
I wonder if I would have hear that crash from that distance. The night was cold and clear, I stopped that night as I walked alone to my car to look out over the small ridge where before me was the man-made frozen lake on the campus.
Later that night, or the next morning everyone – and Donna Brazile – would know about the horrific crash.
I have always wondered how she felt upon hearing about 3407, her shaken self that unforgettable.

Photographs: We make, we save, we share.