“I was seated at my desk and [my colleague] Lynn was passing the threshold to my office, heading out. I thought of another question to ask her so I got up out of my chair to call her back and look at the designs one more timewhen we were hit. The impact threw me about three feet and I hit thewall nearly horizontal. Lynn was thrown a good five feet out my door into the main design department. All the power went out like flipping off a light. The office was plunged into total darkness. Then it erupted into flames. . .”
TOM HADDAD was 31 years old and working as a graphic designer on the 89th floor of the North Tower when American Airlines flight 11 slammed into the building about two stories over his head. His gripping account of how he escaped Tower 1 begins Tower Stories: An Oral History of 9/11, which NBC’s The Today Show called a “must read” and “Arguably the most successful attempt at capturing the enormity of the events 0f 9/11.”
Tom’s story is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is the way he used his experience of 9/11 to fuel something positive in his life. A gifted artist, Tom continued to work in Manhattan for many years after the towers came down. He would ride the bus into the city from his home in New Jersey, and use the time to draw — his outlet for feelings and ideas that simply could not be put into words.
Tom’s images interact in subtle and not so subtle ways with current events, the media, and the zeitgeist. Filtered through a surreal lens, they nonetheless present a picture of modern reality which is resonant and true. Many of his drawings express a whimsical regret for the isolated state of individuals in a technological society. Others simply offer mind-blowing recreations of what our world has become a decade past the millennial mark . . . and Tom made these startling images with simple colored pencils on a common 99 cent sketch pad while sitting on the uncomfortable seat of a bouncing bus heading into and out of Manhattan!
Tom’s work stands as a testament to the alchemical power of the human spirit. Tragedy can be channeled. Fear can be used as fuel. Or perhaps Tom says it best. From the account he offered to Tower Stories:
“My grandfather was on the beach at Normandy, and one time he told me what he witnessed there. It was horrible, of course. But somehow he’d managed to be a part of this horrific event and maintain a normal life. He never allowed that horror to overtake his personality. So I use that as a motivation; I won’t allow this event to redefine me. In all honesty, it has and it hasn’t, but I prefer not to think of myself as a victim. I’m a soldier.”
To see more of Tom’s incredible art, or to contact him, visit his online galleries posted at coroflotand on Tumblr.
Please note:all images posted here are the property of Tom Haddad!