Photographers bespeak connected shooting the violent attacks of 9/11 and their aftermath.
Sept. 11, 2021Updated 6:21 a.m. ET
In 2002, The New York Times won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for its sum of the Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath. Two decades later, we asked our photographers to instrumentality to their enactment from that clip and bespeak connected the images they created, and what it took to seizure them. Their answers person been edited for magnitude and clarity.
I was watching NY1 erstwhile I saw that a level had crashed into the World Trade Center. I grabbed my cogwheel and ran to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. My spouse pointed to a level flying implicit the Statue of Liberty, and I knew what was going to happen: I was going to witnesser hundreds of radical die. I retrieve thinking, “No, no, no!” But I took a enactment and told myself: “This is history. Do your job.” I enactment the camera to my face, framed the skyline wide, and I waited for the level to travel into my frame.
I effort not to deliberation of that day. I witnessed the fearfulness of New Yorkers’ nonaccomplishment — moving moms, dads, sons and daughters, friends. I person nightmares; not sleeping good since Sept. 11 has go the norm. The representation of the pistillate frozen successful clip and reacting to the autumn of the archetypal World Trade Center tower.
If I hadn’t swapped for the agelong lens that I had connected my camera 2 days before; if I hadn’t gone to the westbound broadside due to the fact that the roadworthy was blocked; if I hadn’t stopped astatine that moment, retired of enactment aft moving toward the World Trade Center; if I hadn’t looked astatine the burning operation thinking, “Wow, it looks similar it could illness immoderate second,” if I hadn’t … I inactive don’t cognize wherefore I was destined to seizure that moment.
I heard solid breaking and a dependable calling retired done the acheronian of the unreality of the fallen archetypal tower. I crawled retired from nether the exigency conveyance wherever I had sheltered and made my mode to the voice, wrong the Stage Door Deli connected Vesey Street. It was a surreal scene: Firefighters, constabulary and a fewer civilians stumbled around, catching their breath, spitting retired mouthfuls of mud, lit lone by the eerily glowing lights of the show lawsuit holding acold cuts and cheeses for that day’s sandwiches. Officer Richard Adamiak bent over, coughing. In the inheritance of the photograph is the entranceway to the deli. One should person seen superb sunshine streaming successful connected that beauteous September morning. Instead, the vicinity was engulfed successful darkness.
Time contracts erstwhile I remember, and I americium backmost nether an exigency vehicle, successful implicit blackness, with what felt similar sandpaper being dragged done my throat. Then I americium catapulted done Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Second Intifada and the warfare successful Iraq, and past backmost to the United States. Watching events unfold astir the pullout of troops with expanding dismay has triggered memories — of friends lost, of seemingly futile efforts — and I wonder: Has it each been successful vain?
It took maine a agelong clip that greeting to find a covert mode past the constabulary barricade perimeter to wherever the towers fell. As I climbed implicit precarious piles of rubble, 2 firefighters caught my eye. They were walking rapidly and I could perceive their conversation. I learned they were searching for a firefighter from Ladder 21, whom they had conscionable found. They rushed past me, and I raised my camera arsenic they told him that his brother, besides a firefighter, was known to beryllium wrong 1 of the towers erstwhile it collapsed and was believed to person died. His shoulders fell, and helium was embraced successful a infinitesimal of shared grief. Initially, I wished the firefighters’ faces were much disposable successful the image. However, implicit the years I person travel to admit their anonymity. For me, they person travel to symbolize the heavy nonaccomplishment truthful galore radical experienced that day.
This is connected the Brooklyn Bridge conscionable aft the 2nd operation collapsed arsenic an exodus of survivors dilatory made its mode retired of the fume and into the sunlight. I ran into Joseph Sylvester, who said helium worked astatine the World Financial Center. He was covered successful ash, and his caput was bleeding from a portion of debris that had fallen connected him. He said helium was looking for his father, who worked successful the area. I’ll ne'er hide however calm and quiescent they were. I deliberation everyone indispensable person been successful daze — conscionable silently, dilatory making their mode to safety.
This photograph of Michele Defazio remains, for me, a reminder of the kindness of strangers. I deliberation of her each Sept. 11. I watched Michele locomotion unsocial toward the Bowery, wherever a missing persons reporting presumption had been acceptable up. Carrying her homemade fliers with her husband’s photograph, her grief and interest overwhelmed her, and she paused for the briefest of moments. Strangers connected the thoroughfare besides paused to comfortableness her. The infinitesimal was fleeting. Soon aft this photograph was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, I called Michele. It was important to maine that she knew her communicative was important to history. We had a short, somewhat awkward speech fixed the unusual transportation we present shared. She told maine she was inactive moving connected accepting the nonaccomplishment of her hubby and had acceptable up a assistance money successful his name. In the days pursuing the attack, we would larn that 658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees — including Michele’s husband, Jason — died successful the attack. I aboriginal covered their memorial service, crying myself portion making photographs of the immense oversea of radical who had travel unneurotic successful their grief.
My duty was a ceremonial successful Yonkers, for an E.M.S. idiosyncratic killed successful the attack. The satellite property was there, too, but aft the burial they packed up their cogwheel and left. I stayed for a tribute by the E.M.T.s that included a salute and euphony from a roar box. I changeable 3 frames successful the rain, astatine the extremity of a roll, erstwhile Jay Robbins teared up. I’ll ne'er hide however it happened close erstwhile the euphony started playing. For me, it’s been hard to look astatine this photograph. It inactive breaks my heart.
What sticks with maine is not the fire, not the crushed grey factual of the Pentagon, but the sensation of the chill autumn aerial and the unrelenting bluish sky. Pieces of greenish pitchy operation were underfoot. I had lone moments to sprout earlier rescue teams and others dominated the scene. I knew that abstraction well. It was connected my mode location from the bureau each day. I had met 2 of the radical connected that plane. By the clip combatant jets passed overhead — arsenic if successful silent, angered tribute — I knew American beingness would ne'er beryllium the same.
In the weeks pursuing Sept. 11, I was assigned to photograph the aftermath — a scenery successful Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn that was irrevocably altered. There remained a bitter, burned odor successful the air, and fragments of insubstantial had been carried by the upwind each the mode into Brooklyn. As I was driving, I saw a occurrence motortruck with blown-out windows, nary longer reddish but covered successful achromatic ash and debris, which had been towed backmost to the firehouse, Engine 226. When I glanced to my right, I saw an affectional infinitesimal unfolding, and I softly took 2 pictures. Lt. Matt Nelson, left, reacts, arsenic Tom Casatelli, the truck’s sole subsister of that day, embraces the lad of his fallen comrade Lt. Bob Wallace. It is simply a infinitesimal that inactive haunts me.
After the panic attacks, radical enactment speech their differences for a time. American flags flew from windows connected Park Avenue. Memorials, similar this 1 successful Union Square, sprouted up astir the city. Prayer and candlelight vigils were held regularly. People reached retired and supported each other: The state grieved collectively. Twenty years agone we were torn apart, but we came together, trying to beryllium the champion versions of ourselves. As we teardrop ourselves isolated 2 decades later, I can’t assistance but ask: Who won?
Saturday, Sept. 15, 2001, extracurricular St. Francis Assisi Church for the burial work of Mychal Judge — a Franciscan friar, clergyman and chaplain to the New York City Fire Department — who died connected Sept. 11 portion administering past rites astatine the World Trade Center. I was not allowed to determination wrong to photograph dignitaries and speakers: That turned retired to beryllium a blessing. The religion was full, but a assemblage gathered successful beforehand of the Engine 1/Ladder 24 firehouse other the church, a unit of mostly firefighters, immoderate successful aged uniforms. At the extremity of the homily, Judge’s person and chap friar Michael A. Duffy asked everyone to stand, rise their close hands and springiness Mychal, who had blessed truthful galore radical successful beingness and death, a blessing. The assemblage successful beforehand of the occurrence location raised their hands and repeated the benediction that helium had fixed to truthful galore others. And I excessively was blessed.