For almost 15 years, photographer Nathan Edwards couldn’t escape the anguish of not knowing whether a mother and her child were still alive after he found their photo lying in the ashes of the 9/11 attacks.
The former New York Post photographer from Australia remembers seeing a flash of colour on the ground amid the dusty rubble that blanketed Ground Zero of the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.
Lying in the rubble was a photo of a smiling woman holding a child wearing a red dress. Edwards photographed the picture capturing what looked like a happy family moment, surrounded by the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack on American soil.
“It was towards the end of the day and I had just stopped to catch my breath and something caught my eye, it was just laying there, this bit of colour,” Edwards told News Corp Australia.
Edwards snapped thousands of photos that day documenting the destruction of the attacks but it was his photo of the family portrait that stuck with him.
“From the first moment I found it, I wanted to know who the people were, and I really wanted them to be alive. As time went on it played on my mind so much,” Edwards said.
“Just to find that picture in the rubble when everything else was ground to dust — I guess it felt like a bit of a sign.”
The search for the mystery mother and baby became an obsession, Edwards said. He checked newspapers, online communities and joined survivor networks to find out who they were, but he found nothing.
Life continued for Edwards. He moved back to Australia with his wife and kids but the photo continued to haunt him, especially during 9/11 anniversaries.
Last February, Edwards decided to give it one last shot. He posted the photo on a Facebook survivor’s network and he got a name: Jennifer Rothschild Robinson.
From there, he plugged her name into Facebook’s search and found her. Turns out, she was alive and well and just recently Edwards travelled to the U.S. to get some answers.
Robinson, 50, was actually supposed to be at work on Sept. 11, 2001. Her first planned vacation away from her child with her husband was rescheduled after a couple they were going with pushed the trip back. She was in Cape Cod when the attacks happened.
“That whole experience of that day was so surreal because I watched the whole thing live on television as the buildings were falling so even though I physically wasn’t there, I will never forget that day. That day is just burned into my mind,” Robinson told News Corp Australia.
Robinson lost a lot of colleagues that day when the north tower collapsed. She was working as an insurance lawyer in New York at the time.
Robinson remembers seeing her photo in the New York Post and was so struck by it that she tore it out of the newspaper as a reminder of how fortunate she really was.
“Life has ups, it has downs. Good times, bad times. And for my husband as well, we’ve always just gone back to that photo to just remind us of how lucky we are.”
The mother of two moved to Florida for her husband’s work but she never forgot about that photo. She too, tried to get in contact with the photographer but was unsuccessful.
Edwards’ and Robinson’s family travelled to New York together to visit the 9/11 memorial grounds. The two went back to the exact place where Edwards photographed the image of Robinson with her daughter.
Both said although the trip brought back some dark memories, they are both touched by the fact they were able to find each other, even if it was 15 years later.
“I feel like I have a new friend,” Robinson said. “Even though it’s only been a few days it feels like I have known him for a long time and I can’t imagine not meeting up with him again.”