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Springfield man chronicles 9/11 memorials in new book

Date: 2/8/2012

Feb. 8, 2012

By Lori Szepelak

SPRINGFIELD — Douglas Potoksy is all heart.

For a time after 9/11 — before the rains descended on New York City — Potoksy set out to record the makeshift memorials that traversed the streets of New York City. His heart and overflowing emotion captured the vivid images that now grace the pages of "American Heart 9/11 Tenth Anniversary A Remembrance," published by American Heart Productions Inc., of Springfield.

Potoksy will be the first to tell you, however, that after the Twin Towers fell, his first calling was to volunteer his services as a cook for the masses in New York, but the journey led him instead to capture images that within days were erased from history.

"I am honored that my photos in this remembrance book will be my tribute to the brave souls we lost on 9/11," Potoksy said. "I am hopeful they will bring a small measure of peace to those touched by our national tragedy. To our heroes, I say thank you, rest in peace."

The collection of 70 photos showcased are stark reminders of the grief Americans across the country felt for those who lost their lives on that fateful day. From simple displays of candles and American flags to firefighter boots stuffed with flowers, a peace sign made of votive candles, and children paying their respects at memorials with their parents, the images document the outpouring of tributes by everyday citizens reaching out in their own pain. Additionally, a complete list of the names of those who lost their lives that day complete the 9" by 12" full-color, 78-page coffee table style book.

Twenty-eight of these photographs are a part of the "September 11 Bearing Witness to History" collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Also, Potoksy has photographs on display at various venues including the War Memorial for Women and Ground Zero Museum.

The American Heart Project was created as an endeavor to distribute the American Heart photograph that graces the cover that honors those lost in the 9/11 tragedy as well as the firefighters, police and all of the men and women in our military, according to Potoksy. Ten years later, the book was created as a lasting memorial to the victims and heroes of the 9/11 attack on America.

"The American Heart photograph represents the unity that the American people felt after the tragic events of 9/11," Potoksy said. "It would be a shame to let that feeling fade over time. Let's remind the heroes of this country that we will never forget the sacrifices that they make every day."

Potoksy noted that the photographs are not of burning buildings, piles of debris, and injured victims, but of the spontaneous memorials, tributes and patriotic displays of American flags across New York City. He added the photographs bring back the displays vividly as they were in the days immediately after 9/11.

"This is a unique collection as these photographs captured the displays before time and weather destroyed them," he said.

Potoksy, a modest man who has lived in several towns in Western Massachusetts for the past 20 years, has given away thousands of photo postcards of the American Heart photo, and is proud that the image hung at Penn Station Terminal in New York City for seven years. He considers himself an amateur photographer with a lot of heart when he is framing his subjects.

"I feel bonded with 9/11," Potoksy said, adding, "I felt a calling."

He stressed throughout The Reminder interview how life is "priceless" and that his hope is by keeping the names alive it will help others heal.

"It's my way of giving back to the country," he said. "I feel it can help others."

Ultimately, Potoksy hopes to find enough sponsors and/or donations so that every family who was directly affected by 9/11 could receive his book.

The book is priced at $29.95 and is available through . Potoksy is also available to do local speaking engagements. He can be reached via email for more information at

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