Years ago, I guided many guests into the slot canyons near my home.
From that, I’ve been able to make many friends from all over the world.
Easily more than $6.5MM to me….
For some people it is a life changing place.
For others, it is another location off of the “bucket list”.
For some, it is a spiritual quench.
For David, it was something else. Here’s the story of a hero and this is how I remember it all:
During September 11th, I was living my dream as a 19 year old just seconds from the waves in Huntington Beach, CA. I was young, single, making great money and behind a fire breathing silver Mustang GT with every modification needed for speed and horsepower!
Speed up a little….
A few years had passed since those Huntington Beach days and 9/11….
By this time, I was meeting people from all over the world and taking photography tours into the Slot Canyons found on the Navajo Reservation minutes from my home!
March was a month to look forward to every year as people began to enjoy the sunshine and warmer days. April opened the doors for the monsoon season and May was the beginning of many families coming on vacation.
June temperatures were always in the high 80’s and 90’s with a lot of boaters in town. July has always reminded me of warriors and hero’s that served and are in active duty, and of course, the days at Huntington Beach.
Leading photographers into the slot canyons was busier than ever. I enjoyed it. I was passionate about it!
I liked the thrill of showing people how to get the most out of their digital camera’s. And eeeeeeeeeeevery now and then, I’d see someone using film. (YEAH!!!!!)
I enjoyed it because, many people were able to return home with a few awesome exposures of a place near and dear to me. I always wanted them to have a great image of my homelands. I was always committed to help them return with a wonderful representation of Navajoland; home.
David had been planning his Southwest photography excursion to find a particular photograph that I knew about. In fact, I knew it perfectly.
His descriptions of what the photo contained as far as colors, lighting and rock structure, were of no difficulty to find. I had been to the location hundreds and thousands of times.
David, like you and I, will probably never forget 9/11.
I always wondered “how is he ever going to forget that day”. How can he?
Well on September 11th, David, along with many others, was at ground zero. He was running in and out of buildings as a paramedic working in a storm of ash and rubble. He was one of many heroes that we know.
On one rescue, he and his team rushed into a building and began to remove fallen racks of items and pieces of the shattered building.
As he was digging, David heard a young girl begging for help. Feeling determined not to lose her, he requested more help from others nearby. This was an emotional moment for him, trying to find her and keep her alive.
As each minute flew by, they began to feel like days. Finally after ninety minutes, she was able to be lifted and carried to shelter and receive medical attention.
Both of her legs were broken and she had fractures throughout her left arm. Racing against the clock for her survival, in the midst of rushing outside to safety, he glanced around and saw something.
He had a vision.
While looking, he wondered how could such a beautiful place exist on a day like 9/11. Prior to this event, David had never felt such comfort at any time in is life of an assurance for his well-being and the well-being those around him.
He felt a powerful indescribable feeling that guaranteed him life and felt a promise that the young girl would live to see many more days.
He felt he was in some sort of a protected bubble….
David later wrote me through emails, he had never felt such peace, comfort and strength than at that moment in his life. He also mentioned the young girl was able to walk again and despite a few scars, she is ever grateful for David and those that saved her.
On that day, he made a promise to himself that he would search the world to find what he saw on September 11th.
After many emails, the day finally came and it was on July 3rd. We met for the first time. We had emailed each other a few times over the winter and I assured him his trip out west would be better in the summer and not another time of the year.
This was a photo trip I will never forget.
We were moving throughout the slot canyon photographing the various colors and formation. Occasionally, David would ask, “When is it going to happen? I can’t miss this!!! Where is it going to be at?”
About 50 minutes into my photography tour, we were heading back to where we had started near the entrance of the slot canyon.
He thought we were leaving. I didn’t make mention of what the next exposure values were going to be or the best aperture to use like I had previously recommended at other places we photographed.
He followed and said, “Hey, we can’t leave yet.” I said, “I know, we’re not. We’re going to set up for the next image.”
As he was close by, I asked to see his camera to look over a few of his past images. Again, I wanted to make sure his images were top notch.
David handed me his Canon DSLR and we walked for about 60 yards. We slowed down and I remembered all of his details he explained through the emails.
At that moment I asked David to turn around and look…
He did and his personage took on a different appearance for the first 5 seconds. He was full of joy and the tears began to run down his face.
He saw it. He paused for about 15 seconds.
The world felt like it had stopped. We were motionless and frozen in place.
At the end of his gaze, he shook my hand in a strong grip and simply said “Thank you Mylo, thank you so much. This was exactly what I saw….”
After his attempt to stand longer to gaze, his legs began to shake a little and he sat against the rocks.
Leaning back on it, covering his face, he wiped tears away. A different feeling was in the air. It was a humbling experience for me.
His hands were shaking and trembling badly so I offered to take 3 photographs for him which I did.
We had finished the trek and left better people simply by a few images.
After visiting and leading thousands of photographers, and for the first time it was my turn to take my own photo.
I loaded one sheet of 4×5 film that night after David’s departure and on the next day, July 4th, I used my 150mm Rodenstock Caltar II and took the very same photograph (below) that illuminated David’s life and titled it “Heaven’s Tender Mercy.”
Bottom line, these moments are the essence of photography. Since I grew up from what the landscape provided and living off the land, I have a different appreciation and certainly a different approach to each exposure.
Some do it for world record sales.
Some do it for fame.
Some do it for other reasons.
I hope all who photograph on Navajoland, become Navajo for those images and put as much life, thought and purpose of what the landscape really stands for.
Price point isn’t apart of the formula.
For Navajo people, we have a history of broken treaties, unlawful and many inhumane events in our history. Navajoland is one of our most valuable possessions and we are happy to share the beauty with others. This is why I host photography workshops so others could also enjoy and photograph the stunning landscape so they can see it from one themselves.
Like most Native American Reservations, many lands were referred to has inhospitable and the “Indians” would eventually die off on their own. To this degree, I love to showcase we as Native people are still alive. No matter how many buffalo’s you killed, nor wolves, nor land you take, we are alive.
Alive in body.
Alive in mind.
Especially alive in spirit and that spirit you cannot take.
That spirit thrives in each exposure.
We are alive.
May You Walk in Beauty,
* I promise I’ll never send you junk and will keep your contact information private. We do not sell, rent or give your contact information away.