The Photographs of 9/11
Photographers reflect on shooting the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and their aftermath.
In 2002, The New York Times won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for its coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath. Two decades later, we asked our photographers to return to their work from that time and reflect on the images they created, and what it took to capture them. Their answers have been edited for length and clarity.
I was watching NY1 when I saw that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I grabbed my gear and ran to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. My partner pointed to a plane flying over the Statue of Liberty, and I knew what was going to happen: I was going to witness hundreds of people die. I remember thinking, “No, no, no!” But I took a breath and told myself: “This is history. Do your job.” I put the camera to my face, framed the skyline wide, and I waited for the plane to come into my frame.
I try not to think of that day. I witnessed the horror of New Yorkers’ loss — working moms, dads, sons and daughters, friends. I have nightmares; not sleeping well since Sept. 11 has become the norm. The image of the woman frozen in time and reacting to the fall of the first World Trade Center tower.
If I hadn’t swapped for the long lens that I had on my camera two days before; if I hadn’t gone to the west side because the road was blocked; if I hadn’t stopped at that moment, out of breath after running toward the World Trade Center; if I hadn’t looked at the burning tower thinking, “Wow, it looks like it could collapse any second,” if I hadn’t … I still don’t know why I was destined to capture that moment.