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11 September 2001, around 9 a.m., at the breakfast table, the telephone rings. From the hospital Fred is calling his wife. 'Suzy, put on CNN, a plane hit one of the twin towers'. She looks at me, worries in her eyes. 'Not good, he is starting to hallucinate.'

6 September 2001: I try to leave Brussels, to visit my mentor and friend Fred J. Maroon for the very last time. Belgian's national airline Sabena's pilots are on strike. It takes hours to get to London, and from there to Washington D.C.

Sailing with QE2 into New York, passing the Twin Towers, June 1995Around sunset, we pass west from New York; The city colours pink, I see coloured twin towers in the evening glow, and I feel pity that I didn't bring my camera equipment. I remember the towers from sailing into New York with Queen Elizabeth in 1995, after a turbulent trans-Atlantic cruise. We arrived about 12 hours late, due to the many and heavy storms. I was sooo glad setting foot on land :-)...  During that visit to New York, I met Fred Maroon at the opening of his exhibition at the Leica Gallery.

Suzy, Fred Maroon's wife, picked me up at Dulles Airport. "Dr. Maroon is dying, Pascal", she told me. Since he received his honorary doctorate in 1999, I sometimes called him "Dr Maroon". I must have been the only person in the world to do so, and he liked it.
"So little luggage?" When you are visiting a dying friend, you don't take your camera equipment with you, do you? That trip was the first and the last I did with no camera whatsoever on me.

11 September: the days with the family Maroon have been enriching. It has been hurting to see someone dear facing the last days of his life. It was ashaming and frustrating to see a photo agent and a book publisher fight at a hospital bed. But it was good to be able to say goodbye. A last breakfast at his home in Georgetown. Then preparing for my flight back early afternoon. The telephone rings. It's Fred. "Suzy, put on CNN, a plane hit one of the twin towers." We wonder if he got new drugs.

We put on the television, more out of politeness than of interest. We see a tower burn. Suddenly the second tower is hit. We stay at the television. A plane hits the Pentagon, a tower collapses, a plane is told to be missing, a second tower collapses,we are glued to the CNN screen. The airports are closed, there goes my flight home.

I want to go out, but have no camera. Everyone in the house is too shocked to lend me one. "Don't go out, Pascal." Finally I may take Suzy's pocket camera, I put a black & white film in it. I walk to the Pentagon. Sirens everywhere. Empty streets. Empty faces. A man starts speaking to me: "11 september, Allende, Chile. That's to be remembered today". Policemen guard a stupid statue. "National heritage, circulate, circulate". Smoke comes out of the Pentagon building. I cannot come close; press is not allowed.

I try to find a way around, in vain. I walk back to Georgetown, more than an hour by foot. Neighours of the Maroons have lost their second son in the plane that hit the Pentagon. The first one died a few years before, in a car crash if I remember well.

I am going back to the Pentagon the day after, entering the press area. I take some images, from the journalists reporting. I cannot photograph people. I am clearly not a reporter. I feel upset, guilty of not being a professional, at the same time proud of not taking advantage of the people, aware of missing the photographic opportunity of a world changing moment. I am confused. I am still confused ten years later.


PS 1: Six days later, I can fly back to Brussels. For most of this period my 4 year old daughter was convinced I had died. She knew I was in Washington, and all communication lines were broken.
PS 2: Fred J Maroon (1924-2001) would die on 5 November.