Αυτόπτης μάρτυρας της 11/9: Αδημοσίευτες φωτογραφίες (του “LIFE”)

EXCLUSIVE- Eyewitness to 9/11: Never-Seen Pics

Out of the Dust

LIFE.com senior editor Michael Y. Park was a New York City journalist assigned to cover what he thought was a skyscraper fire on September 11, 2001. When he arrived at the scene and realized it was much more — that planes had crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and that the United States was under attack — he took out his point-and-shoot camera and snapped several photos capturing the events in lower Manhattan on that day.

Most of these have never been published or seen by the public before.

Bad Omen– Κακός οιωνός

LIFE.com’s Michael Y. Park remembers: I found out something was horribly wrong on the morning of September 11 through my cat.

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

Twins Aflame- 

I moved two or three blocks north of the towers for a better vantage point. At the time, I convinced myself that what I saw occasionally falling from the windows of the World Trade Center were only pieces of paper, just bits of office equipment or other wreckage.

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

The street flooded with smoke, and the small string of people who’d gathered to watch the towers burn fled. I ran about half a block but was still caught in the ash and dust. 

When it subsided- ηρέμησε, I returned to the intersection where I’d been standing before

Gone

It was difficult to believe the tower was gone, and not merely shrouded- τυλιγμένος in smoke or hidden by some optical illusion. I took this photograph because I felt like it would later prove to me how silly my fears were.

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.

No Air

Ash-covered figures emerged from the south and vomited or collapsed. Some clutched sealed bottles full of grey water — the dust was so pervasive- διάχυτη, it wormed its way (που τρύπωσε σαν σκουλήκι) into nearly everything.

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.

Unholy Corridor

For the first time in the six years I’d lived in New York City, it was utterly– εντελώς quiet. From shortly after the first tower fell to just before the second crashed down to the ground – a span of about 30 minutes – I felt like I was the only person in Manhattan. (This photo was taken after the collapse of the second tower.) The light came down through the ash-filled air like the soft rays of a Renaissance painting. The neo-Gothic skyscrapers that framed the street seemed to form the nave- κεντρικό κλίτος of a cathedral. It was simultaneously- ταυτόχρονα the most weirdly- αλλάκοτα beautiful and numbingly- μουδιασμένα terrible moment I’ve experienced in New York.

Through the Looking Glass

I made it to the northeast corner of the World Trade Center plaza — Church and Vesey streets — when the now-familiar sound of shrieking steel started up again.

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

After the second tower collapsed, one of the undercover cops gave me a dust mask, and I went back out into the streets. I headed straight for where the towers had been, but a scrum- τσούρμο of firefighters told me I was crazy to try and turned me back

Tower of Smoke

I made my to west along the street just north of the World Trade Center, where the air seemed clearer. Along the way, there was a young man wearing a bandana over his face who was collecting dust from the site into a Ziploc bag. I don’t remember if I guessed or he actually told me: He was planning to sell it on eBay

Back Into the Daylight

For the rest of the afternoon, I wandered around the site, and spent some time with friends who had volunteered as ER doctors at the triage center- κέντρο διαλογής — eerily devoid- παραδόξως στερουμένου of patients — set up on the West Side Highway.

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.

No Prayers

I don’t remember taking this photograph at all, but I vaguely- αόριστα remember that I stopped bothering to shoot anymore after the second collapse because my hands were shaking.
Fires Burning
For the next few months, the entire city seemed to turn into a memorial for the dead. (This photo was taken a couple days after the attacks.)

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.