September 11 2001: Reflecting On What I Saw 10 Years Later

Every year on September 11th since 2002 the question has been asked “where were you …”   September 11th 2001 is a defining moment in American history, it is an event that will be a significant factor in the nation’s history for generations to come, the events of that day set into motion three-and-a-half years of documenting homeland security domestically and abroad as a journalist, and spawned Flying With Fish’s coverage of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) because I’ve covered the agency as a journalist since its inception.

 

For me, I found myself in Lower Manhattan on the morning of September 11th 2001 working as a news photographer. At that point in my life, the only job I had ever really known. I found myself wandering the streets of a city I knew like the back of my hand but feeling as if I was in a foreign land as I looked around me.

 

Now, as I look back at the images I shot on September 11th and September 12th 2001, I realize I didn’t take in the full gravity of what I was witness to at that moment I was a witness to it.  I did what I always do, block everything out and look for photos.  One thing remains the same for me today as it has since late September 2001 … I dislike looking at the images I shot.

 

But as I have been asked repeatedly over the past two weeks about being in New York on 9/11 I am posting a gallery of 12 images I shot on September 11th 2001 and early September 12th 2001.

 

Rather than post these images with the original captions, I am posting these images with how I view these images now.

 

So … Happy Flying and may we never experience this again.

@flyingwithfish

 

 

As I shot this photo I remember looking north and thinking how clear and blue the sky was and how it contrasted the acrid coloured sky and smoke rising from where the Twin Towers has stood moments earlier.

 

This photo took on a new meaning after a photo editor called me months after September 11th 2001 and pointed out all of the warning signs they saw in the image. If you take a moment to look at this image you’ll notice the yellow caution light; the don’t walk sign, the one way sign, the back of the fire truck reading keep back, the firefighter looking back and a firefighter pointing away from the building.  I don’t tend to look for deeper meaning in my photographs, but apparently this one is full of them.

 

 Of all the images I shot on September 11th 2001, this single image is the one that has been seared into my mind. 

Some image are gut wrenching because of the content, others for other reasons … for me … this image depicts that last standing remains of the Twin Towers that I ever saw with my own eyes, where you could still see the standing structure of the building.

 

I remember thinking about this little boy all day and night as I shot in Lower Manhattan. I kept wondering what this boy must have been thinking about the world all around him at that moment.

 

People watching the events of September 11th 2001 unfold at home were aware that 7 World Trade Center was going to collapse, however for some in Lower Manhattan, we were unaware the building was going to come down.  I shot this image as 7 World Trade Center began to collapse and this lone police officer began running for cover not knowing what was going on around him.

 

Seconds after the Police Office in the photo above ran past me, there was a burst of movement everywhere as rescue workers began fleeing the area as 7 World Trade Center collapsed.  With radios not working, due to the repeaters having been placed on top of the Twin Towers, communications on the ground were challenging and quite scary at that moment.

 

In one of the few phone calls I was able to receive on September 11th 2001, due to cell phone towers being jammed,  I was asked to walk over to a local hospital to see if there was any visible activity there, along the way I spotted this

 

Just after Midnight on September 12th 2001 I spotted this sign in the window of a restaurant near where the Twin Towers had once stood. Now, 10 years later and we’re still entrenched in a war within the borders of Afghanistan.

 

With sunrise just an hour away I stood and waited to shoot a photo of the remains of the Twin Towers. Just like every other day … dawn approached and the sun rose over New York City.

 

As I walked through the empty street of Lower Manhattan, just after sunrise on September 12th, I found myself standing in a familiar spot looking in a familiar direction staring at an unfamiliar view.

 

I chose to leave New York City at Noon on September 12th 2001; this is one of the last photos I shot at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. To me this sums up how New York and the United States felt on September 12th. I went back to Lower Manhattan on September 14th to shoot an assignment and have not been back since. My coverage of aviation security and homeland security began on September 15th 2001.

 

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Comments

  1. The event was global, and instant. It precipitated a world of on demand instantaneous news consumption. Profound, and awful in the circumstance. Your story is original, but not unique.

  2. As an NYPD officer and after a long draining 10th Anniversary I’m not sure I wanted to look at any more images from 9/11. But thank you for sharing this touching gallery.

  3. There are tears in my eyes and I was holding my breath as I gazed at your amazing photographs… the scars of the impact of that day run deep and seem like they’ll never be fully healed… Thank you for sharing those pics with us again… Truly beautiful and truly devastating all at once. God Bless America!

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