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A happy wedding photo was found at 9/11 ground zero. Here is what happened after 13 years!

The date 9/11 evokes different emotions in different people – loss, fear, anger, courage, grief, horror, outrage, shock, sorrow. But one photograph pulled from the wreckage of the Twin Towers, has brought joy and hope to thousands of of people.

In 2001, Elizabeth Stringer Keefe was given a photograph that was pulled from the rubble after the destruction of the Twin Towers, by a friend who was moving away to California.  The photograph was apparently taken at a wedding, and apart from the bride and groom, there were two men and two women, with trees and snow in the backdrop. Elizabeth took it upon herself to locate the owner of the photograph, so that it could be returned to them.

And each year around the anniversary of 9/11, Elizabeth has posted a scanned copy of it on her social media accounts, hoping that someone would recognize it and come forward to claim it. To her astonishment, Elizabeth was contacted by Fred Mahe, the owner of the photo, after thirteen years, this past Friday, the 12th of September. She tweeted: “Attention wonderful world: ALL SIX PEOPLE ARE ALIVE AND WELL AND I HAVE JUST SPOKEN TO ONE OF THEM!!!!!!!!”

Apparently, Fred last saw the picture at his desk on the 77th floor of the second World Trade Center before the devastating events of 9/11. Fred is actually in the picture, the tall guy in the back, slightly to the left. He contacted Elizabeth immediately after receiving a text message from an acquaintance, who had recognized him in the picture. He sent a tweet to Elizabeth: “@ProfKeefe I KNOW THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE! I was at the wedding.”

Fred went on to explain that the photograph was taken at a wedding in Aspen, Colorado, in 2001, with him and a group of college friends. He now lives in Colorado.

On Monday, the 15th of September, Elizabeth and Fred met in New York to celebrate the return of the photograph to its rightful owner. Elizabeth even posted pictures of their meeting on Twitter.

Elizabeth’s efforts received a timely shot in the arm, when her story was featured on a Boston blog named Universal Hub, making it almost instantly viral. And social media being what it is – a quick and effective way to disburse true human stories in addition information – the original tweet with the scanned copy of the photo generated more than 53,000 tweets on Twitter. A little celebrity help was also forthcoming, when country music singer Blake Shelton passed along the photograph to his more than seven million followers.

“It was a symbol of hope and happiness in this unbelievable destruction,” said Elizabeth, of the photo. “It’s a beautiful, joyful moment captured in time and it was such a contrast to what I saw at Ground Zero, which was still burning when I was there. So, if it had a relationship to 9/11, I wanted to keep it safe until I could return it to its owner. There’s so much beauty and happiness in the photo that I just felt committed to the task.”

Elizabeth Stringer Keefe lives in Boston, and is an assistant professor at Lesley University in Cambridge.

Chaitra Ramalingegowda

Chaitra Ramalingegowda

I fell in love with storytelling long before I knew what it was. Love well written stories, writing with passion, baking lip-smacking-finger-licking chocolate cakes, engaging movies, and home-cooked food. A true work-in-progress and a believer in the idiom 'all those who wander are not lost'. Twitter: @ChaitraRlg