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Thursday, August 11, 2022
The independent student publication of The Unversity at Buffalo, since 1950

UB Prof Captures Grief of a Nation on Film

On Sept. 22, UB professor Bruce Jackson hopped a plane to New York City to capture something many of the news cameras had missed: the public grief of an entire city, expressed on 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper, some with detailed information, some just photos of those missing.

"Every place there was a wall, there was a poster, or just a note sometimes," said Jackson, a Distinguished Professor of English and Samuel P. Capen Professor of American Culture at UB. "Every place there was a park or a public space, people were placing things in memory."

Jackson flew to New York with his wife Diane Christian, also a distinguished professor of English, to visit friends affected by the attacks and to walk the streets. "I wanted to go for a plane ride, I was really annoyed at the idea of people trying to keep us from flying."

On display until Oct. 22 on the Mainstage Wall in the CFA's atrium are 60 photographs Jackson took while walking through New York's Union Square, Sheridan Square, St. Vincent's Hospital and around the streets of lower Manhattan. The photos are Jackson's attempt to preserve the overwhelming reaction of the city through what were initially postings seeking loved ones, but which 11 days later had turned into memorials.

"I wanted to do something useful, so I went down to document what was happening," said Jackson. "What I was doing with these pictures was trying to preserve that part of what happened. There's been tons of coverage everywhere of the site [of the crashes], but these things on the wall are transient statements by ordinary people about what happened."

Jackson said some flyers were extensively detailed with information about those missing after the attacks; some were simply pictures of those now presumed gone forever, "just a few snapshots and notes from their relatives."

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"Normally, grief is expressed in the family, but this was so broad, I don't think there was one person in New York who was more than one degree away from someone in the towers, and everybody shared in their grief," said Jackson.

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