The work story of reporters photographing the 9/11 disaster: Unforgettable haunting experiences and emotions

In 2002, the New York Times magazine won the Pulitzer Prize in Photography for Breaking News. And what helped them achieve this award are the horrifying, heartbreaking but momentous photos of the terrorist events of 9/11.

Taking pictures and reporting on a hot event is always a sensitive issue. Photographers and photojournalists will face a huge internal struggle, as what they capture may be the last moment for hundreds of people. The line between professional and cold-blooded is very thin, just like what photojournalist Richard Drew had to admit after making the picture “The Falling Man” at the Twin Towers of the Trade Center. The world collapsed.

Twenty years on, America’s wounds still haven’t healed. But what about the people who directly made the pictures that spread around the world of New York Times How did they feel that day?

Kelly Guenther

I was watching the news when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center (WTC) building. In a hurry to grab my things, I ran to Brooklyn Heights. A colleague showed me an airplane flying past the Statue of Liberty, and I understood what I was witnessing. It was a moment when hundreds of people were preparing to die.

I remember just repeating the thought, “Oh no,” but then I calmed down, took a deep breath, and said to myself, “This is history. Got to do my job.” I pulled out my camera, framed it in the sky, and waited for the plane to come in.

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Kelly Guenther’s photo for NY Times magazine

Angel Franco

I can only try not to remember that day, the day I had to witness the most terrible loss of New Yorkers: A child lost a father, a mother lost a child, friends were forever separated. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep, nightmares have become the norm since 9/11.

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Chang Lee

The words “if”. What if I didn’t change the telephoto lens to my camera that day 2 days before? What if I didn’t go west that day, because the usual way was blocked? If I hadn’t stopped at that moment, after running all the way to the WTC. And if I don’t look up at the burning building and think “Perhaps it’s about to collapse.”

To this day, I still don’t know why fate pushed me to take this photo.

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The moment the World Trade Center collapsed (Photo: Chang Lee – NY Times)

Ruth Fremson

I heard the sound of broken glass, then voices echoing from the giant column of dust after the first tower had collapsed. I crawled out of the ambulance I was hiding in, toward the sound of a shop on Vesey Street.

And I witnessed a surreal scene. Policemen, firefighters and civilians lay sprawled on the ground, gasping for air, spitting out piles of dirt under the dim light from the glass cupboard. Officer Richard Adamiak hunched over, coughing heavily. In that place, there should have been the warm sunshine of a beautiful September morning. But at that moment everything went dark.

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Stage Door Deli Store (Photo: Ruth Fremson – NY Times)

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After a terrorist attack, people often overlook differences and become more united – at least for a while. The American flag hangs over the windows of the Park Avenue apartment complex. Monuments sprang up all over the city. Candlelight prayer ceremonies are also held more frequently. People look to each other, support each other, try to show their best side. But then gradually, things became fragmented.

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Krista Niles

It took a long time that morning for me to find my way through the police barricades placed around the site of the terrorist attack. As I climbed over the separating rope, my eyes were drawn to the image of two firefighters. They walked very quickly, and I could hear their conversation clearly. I understand they were looking for another firefighter from the 21st squad, and apparently found one.

The search team told one man that his brother – also a firefighter – was in a tower when it collapsed, and was probably dead. His shoulders sagged, his teammates hugged him to share his pain, and I raised the camera to take a picture.

I wish their faces were clearer in the photo. But later on, I think I appreciate that anonymity more. To me, they are a symbol of the terrible loss that so many people faced that day.

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Photo: Krista Niles – NY Times

Andrea Mohin

The photo I took was of the Brooklyn Bridge just seconds after the second building collapsed. A lot of survivors were pouring out from the huge cloud of smoke.

I met Joseph Sylvester – who said he worked at the World Financial Center during the WTC. Joseph’s body was covered with ashes, his head was slightly torn from a splinter. He said he was looking for his father, who also worked in that area.

I can’t forget the calm and quiet image they showed at that time. I thought everyone would be shocked and scared. But not. They quietly, slowly walked towards the shelter only.

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Ảnh: Andrea Mohin – NY Times

Krista Niles

The person in this photo is Michele Defazio. To me, the photo is like a reminder of the kindness of strangers, which I remember every year 9/11.

I watched Michele walk alone down Bowery Road, where a missing station had been set up. Holding a leaflet with her husband’s picture in her hand, she trudged along with heavy steps, engulfed in pain and misery.

Michele stopped, hiccuping, the people around them also stopped walking. They came to comfort her. A photo of the moment was taken, and it won the Pulitzer Prize.

After accepting the award, I called Michele. I needed to tell her how much her story meant to history. Through a brief and awkward conversation, I learned that Michele was still working to get over the loss of her husband, Jason, and was starting a scholarship fund in his name.

That fateful day, 658 people of Cantor Fitzgerald – including Jason – died.

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Photo: Krista Niles – NY Times

George Gutierrez

That day, it was my duty to attend the funeral of an emergency worker who died after the attack.

The world media was also there, but after the funeral they all packed up and left. I stayed and attended the farewell ceremony. Picking up the camera, I clicked 3 patterns in the scene of sporadic rain, the last photo fell at the exact moment Jay Robbins burst into tears.

I never forget that moment. Robbins burst into tears right at the moment the music started. My heart is heavy every time I look at this photo because of the feeling I received at that time, it was painful to the heart.

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George Gutierrez – NY Times

Nancy Siesel

In the weeks after 9/11, I was in charge of visualizing its aftermath. What remains of the Brooklyn attack is bleak and bitter.

I came across a fire truck with no windows, no bright red paint, but covered with milky white ash, being towed to the station. Looking the other way, I see an emotional scene: Lieutenant Matt Nelson (left of the picture) is covering his face, while Tom Castelli – the driver of the damaged fire truck, is also the sole survivor. in that car – holding a little boy. That boy was the son of Lieutenant Bob Wallace, who was killed in the attack.

That moment still haunts me to this day.

The work story of reporters who photographed the 9/11 disaster: Unforgettable haunting experiences and emotions - Photo 11.

Photo: Nancy Siesel – NY Times

Source: New York Times

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