A view of the Towers: Video that captured 9-11 to screen at Brooklyn Historical Society

A view of the Towers: Video that captured 9-11 to screen at Brooklyn Historical Society
Courtesy of National September 11 Memorial and Museum, © Wolfgang Staehle

Call it a reminder of the day we will never forget.

On the 17th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks, the Brooklyn Historical Society will screen an hours-long film of the New York city skyline that inadvertently captured the moment of the attacks, previously only seen at the 9-11 Memorial and Museum in Manhattan. Visitors can stop in any time during the day to watch the time-lapse video “2001,” by internet artist Wolfgang Staehle, projected onto a screen in the museum’s Great Hall.

Staehle installed a pair of cameras on top of a building in Williamsburg in early September of 2001, pointed them towards Manhattan, and set them to take a picture every four seconds for the next several weeks, along with other cameras clicking away in Berlin and in the bucolic German countryside. Staehle thought that his art piece would show the banality of daily life at the beginning of the 21st century, said one of the organizers of the event.

“The art piece was intended by Staehle to reflect on how mundane and normal life is, that really nothing happens and that it’s all very similar, and his assumption was that pretty much nothing was going to change,” Marcia Ely, of the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Instead, Staehle’s cameras captured the moment of the city’s most dramatic transformation, said Ely.

The video will start at 8:30 am and will show the entire course of the day, with the planes crashing at 8:46 am and 9:03 am, followed by the aftermath, running for more that 10 hours until sundown. According to Ely, the film is both a piece of art and a way for visitors to reflect on what has happened since that day.

“It’s going to be a powerful prompt to reflect on how the world has changed since then and to remember all sorts of things that we now consider routine and normal, such as security in airports, and to remember a more innocent and simpler time pre-2001,” she said.

The day will also shine a light on the experience of Brooklynites who watched the dramatic scenes from right across the river, in the neighborhood of the museum, she said.

“Brooklyn Heights, for lack of a better term, had a front-row seat of this horrific tragic incident,” Ely said. “The Brooklyn community has specific memories of not just watching images on TV but going to the Promenade and seeing charred paper floating in the sky, watching people cross the Brooklyn Bridge, that flow of humanity just leaving Manhattan.”

Just as everyone has their own memory of that day, Ely said, they will each have their own reaction to the footage.

“This piece of art is a kind of thing that each individual is going to have a such idiosyncratic and different response to it, there’s not many works of art that you could say that about,” she said.

After the screening, a panel of speakers, including journalist Pat Kiernan, poet Tina Chang, and Clifford Chanin of the 9-11 Memorial and Museum, will discuss how New York City and the world have changed since the attacks.

“2001” at Brooklyn Historical Society [128 Pierrepont St at Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 222-4111, www.brooklynhistory.org; www.911memorial.org]. Sept. 11, 8:30 am–7 pm. Free.

“Transformed Overnight: The Impact of 9-11” at Brooklyn Historical Society. Sept. 11 at 7 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.