Courtesy of Jim McGovern
  • 9/11 Dust Messages

    Jim McGovern, 60, was working as a restoration contractor in 2001 when he was sent to New York to assess damage at ground zero. As he snapped pictures of buildings he came across St. Charlie's, dubbed the "Ground Zero Bar" by the firemen and first responders who had set up a first aid station there.
    Courtesy of Jim McGovern
  • 9/11 Dust Messages

    McGovern found messages scrawled in the dust, both inside the bar and on the walls, windows and car windshields in the surrounding neighborhood. McGovern's new, self-published book, "Dust Messages," features these never-before-seen pictures. In the initial weeks following 9/11 the messages, which were eventually washed away by rain and cleanup efforts, served as memorials to those lost.
    Courtesy of Jim McGovern
  • 9/11 Dust Messages

    McGovern, who is from San Francisco, arrived in New York on Sept. 20, 2001 to assess buildings and ended up staying for six months. He found several notes like this one, "we put it here, we'll put it back," expressing optimism in the face of devastation.
    Courtesy of Jim McGovern
  • 9/11 Dust Messages

    But over time, the dust messages yielded to "anger, and politics and pain," McGovern said. This cartoonish image, which appears to have been signed by the NYPD's 75th precinct, depicts Osama bin Laden sketched into a thick layer of dust. "You can run but you can't hide," it reads.
    Courtesy of Jim McGovern
  • 9/11 Dust Messages

    "Just being there every day, there was like this wave of emotion that would hit you sometimes," McGovern said, describing how those involved in the recovery efforts at ground zero would sometimes spontaneously burst into tears.
    Courtesy of Jim McGovern
  • 9/11 Dust Messages

    One photo that has always stayed with McGovern was a note written on a car windshield, reading, "Jesus Is Lord." "It's very powerful when you look at it," said McGovern, who is Catholic.
    Courtesy of Jim McGovern
  • 9/11 Dust Messages

    "It was like we all wanted to tell each other, 'You're not alone,'" McGovern said. "I felt in the middle of this tragedy there was this uplifting of the human spirit. I think the original messages … were true memorials." McGovern, who is now an insurance adjuster, switched careers after 9/11.
    Courtesy of Jim McGovern
  • 9/11 Dust Messages

    The image that speaks to McGovern the most is a message he ended up using on the back cover of his book. The note, scrawled across two window panes, reads, "Fly to the angels. We love you." "When I looked at the message, it gave me comfort because no matter how this happened or why this happened, all these people did go to a better place," McGovern said.
    Courtesy of Jim McGovern
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