EXCLUSIVE- Eyewitness to 9/11: Never-Seen Pics
Out of the Dust
Most of these have never been published or seen by the public before.
Bad Omen– Κακός οιωνός
Though the windows of my Brooklyn apartment shook, giving a soft “whoomp” — and though the skies that day were clear and bright blue — I just figured a fierce storm was moving in. But my cat was perched tautly on a sill- ήταν σκαρφαλωμένη και τεντωμένη στο περβάζι, meowing loudly and staring out as if there were a particularly interesting mouse on the other side of the glass.
What he was looking at was lower Manhattan on fire.
Almost immediately, I got the call from my editor to head straight to what I assumed was a generator fire or a small-plane collision- σύγκρουση. When I emerged from the subway at City Hall and made my way south, this is one of the first things I saw: part of the turbine of one of the planes.
It was obvious we weren’t dealing with a generator fire.
I had a Yashica T-4 and one roll of fresh film in my backpack, so I whipped out the camera when I wasn’t taking notes — I’m a writer, not a photographer. Eventually, though, I stopped taking notes altogether
I know better now.
I managed to reach another journalist by phone. He said, “We’re under attack. Hijackers have crashed passenger jets into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, possibly the White House, and there may be another one headed for New York. It may be headed for Wall Street.”
That’s when the reception went out and the ground started to shake and the air began to scream.
The south tower was coming down
Chaos in Lower Manhattan
When it subsided- ηρέμησε, I returned to the intersection where I’d been standing before
When the cloud of ash and dust around the towers dissipated and I could see that the south tower was indeed demolished, I had the chilling realization that someone I didn’t know was actively trying to kill me.
It’s fair to say I took the attacks personally.
For weeks after September 11, I had grey goo seeping out of my eyes, and for several daysafter the attacks, I couldn’t read anything on a printed page or on a computer screen.
This man could barely catch his breath before he continued north.
I went south.
Through the Looking Glass
The second tower loomed above me. There was a car or a truck nearby that seemed intact- άθικτο, so I tried to convince myself it might be safe to get a little closer, but some detached portion of my brain guessed that I had a 50/50 chance of ever seeing September 12.
I was about to start forward again anyway — it’s hard to explain; professional duties — when three or four Secret Service agents came out of the darkness ahead and insisted I follow them to the designated emergency headquarters a block or so north. It wasn’t a hard sell.
“It’s coming down!” they yelled. We ran, and the ground shook.
The “emergency headquarters” was just an ordinary office building facing the World Trade Center, and besides me, the Secret Service, and a pair of Orthodox Jewish undercover cops (: ;;;) who joined us from seemingly nowhere, it was completely empty. The cops and all but one of the agents ran down into the basement.
I stayed upstairs with the agent, and we watched what was happening through the glass of the front doorwell.
He kept saying, “Oh my God, oh my God.”
I pressed the camera against the glass above my head and clicked the shutter as I watched the second tower come down with my own eyes.
Then the entire world outside filled with smoke and ash again.
World of Ashes
Tower of Smoke
Back Into the Daylight
Several times in the coming days and months, I’d return to Ground Zero itself, and even venture into the Pit — this time with a police escort. But on September 11 itself, I never managed to get closer than I had been just before the second tower fell.
Later I came across the vehicle that had promised me shelter just before I fled with the Secret Service agents. It was pancaked by debris- πασπαλισμένο από συντρίμια from the second collapse.
About a year and a half after the attacks, while I was in Texas to cover the Houston Rodeo for a newspaper, a woman in star-spangled cowboy hat and boots told me New York had been attacked because “you weren’t tough enough.”
That night, I witnessed a man who’d been in Queens during the attacks using his own September 11 story to try to convince a bartender to go bed with him.
When I got home to New York, I gathered up all my September 11 photos, put them in a shoebox in a dusty corner, and didn’t look at them again for nearly a decade.