Photographers remember their experience of the September 11 terrorist attacks
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Photographers remember their experience of the September 11 terrorist attacks


On the 20th Anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the photographs who took the ones of the most memorable images of those deadly events reminisce their terrible experience of that historic day.

The one of the most famous pictures of 9/11 is the image of “The Falling Man.” The photographer behind this photo, Richard Drew remembers:

“I was standing on West Street and Vesey, right next to the World Financial Center," he recalled. "I was standing next to a police officer, and I think it was her that said, ‘Oh my Gosh, look at that!’ And we looked up and saw the first people come down out of the building.”

“We didn’t know that they were jumpers,” Drew said. “I just knew they were people falling from the World Trade Center.”

Drew worked for the Associated Press for 32 years before taking this picture.

“'The Falling Man' is one of a series of photographs that I took of this person falling from the World Trade Center," he said. "And there’s like eight or nine frames of this man in various contortions. At the time [of the photo] he was in this perfect position where he was [a] straight arrow between the buildings. I didn’t push the button. That was a frame that the camera took. It had that symmetry — it had that certain something that really catches your eye.”

“Photographing this vigil held at Washington Square Park, I remember a feeling of both overwhelming sadness and national unity.” Clark Jones recalls. “Like any life-altering event, it took a few days for the enormity of what happened to sink into the mind and psyche of New Yorkers. This was a moment that people had an outlet to grieve with friends and, most importantly, with the community at large. Photographing at night, lit by the glow of candles and dark surroundings, emphasized these three women’s deep grieving — a clear symbol of the national grieving that was taking place. Twenty years later, I still enjoy an occasional walk through Washington Square, although heading down to Ground Zero is very difficult for me.”

Matthew McDermott remembers:

“I borrowed a friend’s motorcycle to get around lower Manhattan. I was standing behind Matthew Long of the FDNY in the smoke, and the wind suddenly shifted and the sun came pouring in. He was standing very erect, confident, with this pose, like, ‘Here we go, let’s get to work.’ You’re looking at this indescribable mound of destruction, the size of it. And he’s got a pike, he’s going in, trying to do something. Days like that you learn a lot about yourself. It was a day I did what I was supposed to do. If I wasn’t there, I most likely would have enlisted. I probably had about 500 emails from young men all over the country who enlisted because they saw my photos. That kept me in photography.”

 Tamara Beckwith.

“I got an early call from the The Post’s photo editor, who thought a small plane had crashed into the WTC. I lived near the Williamsburg waterfront, which was an empty lot at the time. I ran out of the car and right as I looked up, I saw an explosion. I couldn’t believe it, it happened so quickly. It was the most beautiful blue sky — sailboats on the river, such a jarring thing to watch. More people came down, and someone finally said, ‘A plane went into the Pentagon.’ We were all just horrified. Everyone’s head turned to the Empire State Building, like it could be next.”

Shannon Stapleton.

“The thought of us being under attack was the farthest thing from my mind. I thought it was a prop plane [at first]. This picture was at the base of the North Tower. They have actually preserved those stairs at the [9/11] Museum. Amongst all that chaos of the rubble and destruction, you can still see shafts of light coming through the clouds and the smoke. It really felt surreal. I made it out 15 minutes before the tower came down. For me, [the picture] sums up the variety of the people affected by the tragedy. They weren’t all rescue workers, firemen and policemen. These were New Yorkers. People who went to the city and went to the Towers to work every day.”

Patrick Andrade.

“I was living in Brooklyn and my first instinct was to grab my camera and go. I was crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and I was the only one going into Manhattan; everyone else was coming out. I was amazed at the number of people trying to get out of the city. The South Tower collapsed and some people didn’t realize what had happened behind them. The woman in the foreground — it was just horror in her reaction. That’s what I was looking to portray. There were other people crying with their heads buried, but she was more openly emotional. I cried at night the first few nights [after 9/11]. You could smell death in the air.”

Photographer Bill Biggart was the one professional who also became a victim of the attacks. He died while taking the photos of the consequences of the twin towers falling. Biggart didn’t stop shooting using his Canon D30 even all covered in dust and ashes as the South Tower came crashing down.

Roughly around 10:30 a.m. after he captured the ruins of the South Tower, 500,000 tons of concrete, steel and glass crashed down on Biggart at 120 m/h killing him immediately.


Author: Usa Really