Remembering 9/11: The Photo Archive

A photographer documents the efforts of Ground Zero workers in the days after September 11th. Part of the Emmy Award winning web series, Remembering 9/11.

The Day The Twin Towers Fell

Magnum’s Thomas Hoepker crossed from Manhattan into Queens and then Brooklyn to get closer to the scene. In Williamsburg, he captured the above pastoral scene, but decided to hold back the photo, feeling that it was “ambiguous and confusing.” When finally published on 9/11’s fifth anniversary, the calm scene seemingly challenged the conventional wisdom that “nothing in America will ever be the same again”.

On the first glance, the photo espoused the quintessentially Seidfeldian — and by extension, New Yorkian — values of nihilism. Accordingly, Frank Rich opened the debate by saying the photograph is a prescient symbol of indifference and amnesia: “This is a country that likes to move on, and fast. The young people in Mr. Hoepker’s photo aren’t necessarily callous. They’re just American.” This assessment was met with objections from many people, including the photographer himself and the people in the photo. (More ….)

The photo recalls Bruegel’s The Fall of Icarus, where a peasant nonchalantly plowed as the titular boy plunges to his death, and the poem it inspired: W. H. Auden wrote, “How Everything Turns Away/Quite Leisurely from the disaster.

But it was a different poem by Auden that was frequently quoted in the days following 9/11: the unmentionable odour of death/offends the September night, he wrote about the month the Second World War began. The couplet clearly underlined the cyclical nature of violence, destruction, and fanaticism, and perhaps it was also fitting that one of the most famous photos from 9/11 was also taken by a man who once covered the D-Day landings — Marty Lederhandler of AP.

A veteran photographer of 65 years, Lederhandler had seen plenty of fires and explosions his advanced age prevented him from heading out to the WTC site, so the 84-year old photographer went to the Rainbow Room on the G.E. Building — now more famously known as 30 Rock, and took a well-framed photo of the disaster before 30 Rock itself was evacuated.

Jonathan Torgovnik returned the next morning to take this photo from the fifth-floor window of the neighbouring 1 Liberty Plaza, which was also in danger of falling. He remembers: “I randomly opened the door to one of the offices, walked in, and got the picture. I remember it being so eerie, thinking of the people who might have been there when it happened, and then their not being there — and yet I felt their presence.”

Over three thousand people perished that day, but the photographs from 9/11 do not show mangled corpses and bloody carnage. There was an agreement among print media and television broadcasters not to show any corpses in connection with the attacks, and when the above picture by Todd Maisel, titled “The Hand, 9/11” appeared in the New York Daily News, it was roundly criticized.

But in the following years, this decency and deference that the American media maintained towards the government will be strained. Photographs of military funerals, coffins and even deaths and injuries will be banned by an administration which insisted that the control of information is vital to national security. Many photographers would find restrictions and censorships of an embedded assignment suffocating, but such assignments became a new normal in the symbiotic and uneasy relationship between the military and the media.

David Surowiecki took the above photo of people jumping off the towers.

On September 11, Richard Drew was also covering the Fall Fashion Week. He rushed to the site, where he captured the dramatic pictures of the people jumping out of the towers. In most American newspapers, his photos ran once and were never seen again the memories of “jumpers” were so heartrending, their plunges so traumatic and their suicides so stigmatic that officially and journalistically, they ceased to exist.

In official records, nobody had jumped no one had ever been a jumper. Instead, people fell or were forced out by the heat, the smoke and the flames. A decade on, this denial still holds. The 9/11 Museum will consign the story of the jumpers into a hidden alcove, and there is widespread reluctance to DNA-identify the remains. In that sense, the jumpers were modern unknown soldiers, and their pictures, the photographic equivalent of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

We will never know truly their motives, but retellings of the jumpers’ stories were at best a measured alteration of history, and a signal of many such revisions to come, as politicians and pundits continue to hijack the narrative and legacy of 9/11.

Nowhere was this hijacking more blatant than in 9/11 Truther Movement, which held that the American Government perpetrated the attacks and the subsequent cover-up as casus bellorum for Afghanistan and Iraq. One of their claim was that the Pentagon was attacked by a missile, rather than a plane. The above photo taken by Daryl Donley, one of the first photographers to arrive to the Pentagon, became a centerpiece of their argument. Blithely ignoring many eyewitnesses who saw a plane crash, and large pieces of airplane debris recovered from the site, they continue to protest shrilly that there was no plane in Donley’s photo.

“Mr. President, a second aircraft has hit the World Trade Center. America’s under attack.”

With these portentous words, the White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card informed President Bush of the attacks. Bush was reading to a class of Florida schoolchildren, and his shock was palpable. Seldom are such crucial moments of a presidency recorded live, and for Bush it was an especially watershed moment. Previously, he had repeated said he was more interested in nation building at home than interventions abroad, but he would ironically find himself becoming a close ally with a country whose leader’s name he famously forgot.

Not wishing to alarm the kids, Bush remained in that classroom for few more minutes while the president was initially lauded for his grace, as criticism grew in the following years, the “Pet Goat” moment was increasingly pointed out as symptomatic of his dithering presidency.

AP’s photographer Doug Mills was the only photographer to accompany President Bush to the presidential evacuation center in Nebraska and then back to Washington. On September 14th, Mills captured President Bush standing front of the World Trade Center debris with firefighter Bob Beckwith. With megaphone in hand, Bush applauded the crowd of rescue workers with the confidence of the Andover cheerleader he once was.

Inside the National Cathedral, Bush became, in the words of the officiating priest, “our George” religious undertones were abundantly clear. And ironically for a president who would since give his name to linguistic maladroitness, Bush’s speech and grace immediately following the disaster were compared to those of Churchill and Roosevelt. But Bush would find this journalistic and international good-will short-lived. Seven years later, he would enter the records dubiously as a president who enjoyed both the highest and the lowest approval ratings in history.

John Labriola, who had an office on the 71st Floor of the Tower One snapped this photo of firefighter Mike Kehoe rushing up the Tower One as Labriola was evacuating. The photo was taken just minutes before the tower collapsed, and when the Daily Mirror ran the next morning, the editors were uncertain whether he survived or not. Six of his colleagues who went up the same staircase died, but Kehoe survived, and the photo won him instant acclaim Tony Blair held up the photo to proclaim, “This man is a hero.” He also found unwanted attention from reporters, well-wishers and stalkers.

The photo perfectly encapsulates the dedication of 343 firefighters who perished, and thousands of other first responders, law enforcement officials and ordinary heroes that day. But sadly, their stories also represent the ephemeral nature of the unity achieved on 9/11. A decade on, political horse-trading would lead to the responders being denied medical coverage and compensation.

In doing so, the political classes displayed their moral spinelessness and hypocrisy, while the media — which took months even to remove miniature American flags from their screens — refused to cover it. One can reflect the bitter irony that the debate over the first responders has became such a frenzied charade that a comedian became its voice of sound reason. (See Jon Stewart’s emotional return to latenight after 9/11).

As the global finance wobbled in the recent years, the above photo by Susan Ogrocki (Reuters) became one of my favorite 9/11 photos. Taken right around the corner from the Ground Zero, the photo reminds me that the attacks were a seminal event for the global finance too, not least because the target was at the heart of American fiance.

Before September 2001, the United States entered a recession caused by the dotcom crash after 9/11. The Federal Reserve repeatedly intervened by halving the interest rates, and after 9/11, these interventions only intensified and it pumped in over $100 billion into the financial system to calm the markets. The nation went on war footing, and the congress also embarked on a vast spending spree for rebuilding, counterterrorism and defense.

There was no doubt that the global economy benefited from these massive spendings, but coming as they did after the dotcom crash, the regrowth introduced a delusion that boom-bust-cycle has been broken. Housing prices increased again, and mortgage rates plummeted — a trend that continued right until 2007. Causes of the current financial crisis are complex, but in the financial detoxification we are currently going through, one can find consequences of many poisons 9/11 engendered.

Many seminal events of the last decade didn’t happen just because of 9/11, but there is no denying that 9/11’s significance — both real and imaginary — is huge. Like a black hole, it produced a force so large, so dark and so unfathomably that it rearranged the geopolitical heavens. The long shadows of the Twin Towers, and the vacuum their destruction created both came to dominate the decade that followed it. It was perhaps a paradox best underlined by the Ground Zero — simultaneously a hallowed ground and an open wound.

9/11: The Photographs That Moved Them Most

O n September 11, 2001, photography editors across the world, overcome with a deluge of devastating imagery, faced the daunting task of selecting photos that would go on to define a catastrophe like no other. A decade later, TIME asked a wide variety of the industry’s leading photo editors, photographers, authors, educators, and bloggers to tell us which image moved them most&mdashand why.

Some couldn&rsquot choose one single image. Vin Alabiso, head of photography at the Associated Press on September 11, 2001, said, “Of the thousands of images that were captured, I thought only a handful would truly resonate with me. I was wrong. As a document of a day filled with horror and heroism, the collective work of so many professionals and amateurs leaves its own indelible mark on our memory.”

Holly Hughes, editor of Photo District News, said she was moved most by the photographs of the missing people that blanketed the city in the days after 9/11. “The images that can still move me to tears are the snapshots of happy, smiling people looking out from the homemade missing posters that were taped to signposts and doorways and mailboxes,” she said. “How those posters were made, the state of mind of the people who stood at Xerox machines to make copies, it’s too painful to contemplate. Those flyers stayed up around the city for weeks, through wind and rain, and became entwined with the sorrow and anxiety we carried with us day after day.”

Alabiso added, “A decade later, I could only wish that the most memorable photo of September 11, 2001, would not have been memorable at all…simply two towers silhouetted against a clear azure-blue sky.”

To visit TIME&rsquos Beyond 9/11: A Portrait of Resilience, a project that chronicles 9/11 and its aftermath, click here.

Columbia University Libraries

To say that the events of September 11, 2001 had a lasting impact on New York City, the nation and the world would be an understatement.

In the days after the attack, the Columbia Oral History Research Office, as the combined research and archives arms were known then, had the foresight, skill and tact to design and execute a large-scale oral history project to hear from New Yorkers about how 9/11 had already changed their lives.

Under the leadership of oral historian Mary Marshall Clark,

The September 11, 2001 Oral History Project consists of five projects and programs focusing on different areas of inquiry related to the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center. As of the tenth anniversary, the project as a whole amounts to over 900 recorded hours (23 hours on video) with over 600 individuals.

Click to play video on The New York Times’ website.

You can hear excerpts from some of the oral histories from this New York Times article and read more about the project.

Remembering 9/11: Quotes, inspiration, to remember Sept. 11 terrorist attacks

Today marks the 16 th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on America. [email protected]

On this day 16 years ago, almost 3,000 people were killed in the largest terrorist attack on American soil.

The attacks started at 8:46 a.m. when hijackers aboard American Airlines Flight 11 crashed the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone on board and hundreds inside the building. Just 17 minutes later, hijackers crash United Airlines Flight 175 into the World Trade Center’s South Tower, killing all on board and more inside the trade center.

Thousands more died when both towers crashed down less than an hour after being attacked.

Photo: Department of Defense

The 9/11 attacks weren’t limited to New York. Flight 77 crashed into the western façade of the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., killing 50 people on board and 125 inside the Washington, D.C. home of the Department of Defense. A fourth plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field, killing all on board as passengers and crew attempted to wrest control from the hijackers.

Among the fatalities that day were 343 firefighters, 72 law enforcement officers and 55 military personnel.

Photo: Department of Defense

Today is officially called “Patriot Day,” a national day of service and remembrance that commemorates the catastrophic events of Sept. 11, 2001. On every anniversary, the names of the victims who died in the Trade Centers are read aloud and services are also held at the Pentagon and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the site of the fourth plane crash.

Here is a look at quotes, inspirations, more to remember Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, along with rarely seen photo of that day:

Lisa Stinnett, Website staff

More determined than ever

"The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom." —Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani

Brought out the best in all of us

"Remember the hours after September 11th when we came together as one to answer the attack against our homeland. We drew strength when our firefighters ran upstairs and risked their lives so that others might live when rescuers rushed into smoke and fire at the Pentagon when the men and women of Flight 93 sacrificed themselves to save our nation's Capitol when flags were hanging from front porches all across America, and strangers became friends. It was the worst day we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us."
– Senator John Kerry

Photo: Department of Defense

“If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” —Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl

Photo: Department of Defense

“You can be sure that the American spirit will prevail over this tragedy." —Colin Powel

There will be no forgetting

"Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children." —former President George W. Bush 4. Ten years have passed since a perfect blue sky morning turned into the blackest of nights. Since then we've lived in sunshine and in shadow, and although we can never unsee what happened here, we can also see that children who lost their parents have grown into young adults, grandchildren have been born and good works and public service have taken root to honor those we loved and lost."
– New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking at a memorial service in New York.

“Remembering Vietnam” is on exhibit in the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery until January 6, 2019. Check out the gallery photos of the exhibit in Washington, DC and watch the exhibit teaser.

Remembering Vietnam Exhibit in Washington, DC

Entrance to the "Remembering Vietnam" Exhibit in the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery. Photographer: Jeff Reed, National Archives

"Remembering Vietnam" Exhibit Introduction Experience. Photographer: Jeff Reed, National Archives

"Remembering Vietnam" Episodes 1-3. Photographer: Jeff Reed, National Archives

"Remembering Vietnam" Episodes 4-6. Photographer: Jeff Reed, National Archives

"Remembering Vietnam" Theater Entrance. Photographer: Jeff Reed, National Archives

"Remembering Vietnam" Episodes 6-8. Photographer: Jeff Reed, National Archives

"Remembering Vietnam" Episodes 7-8. Photographer: Jeff Reed, National Archives

Oval Office Listening Stations. Photographer: Jeff Reed, National Archives

"Remembering Vietnam" Episode 8. Photographer: Jeff Reed, National Archives

"Remembering Vietnam" Episodes 10-12. Photographer: Jeff Reed, National Archives

"Remembering Vietnam" Legacy Exhibit. Photographer: Jeff Reed, National Archives

Personal Objects Left at the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Photographer: Jeff Reed, National Archives

Currently on exhibit at the National Archives in Washington, DC. Visit this gallery page for more information to plan your visit.

This page was last reviewed on June 6, 2019.
Contact us with questions or comments.

Share All sharing options for: Remembering Windows on the World: Words, Photos, Videos

More than 70 employees of Windows on the World lost their lives on 9/11, as did the nearly 100 people that made the trip to the 106th floor for breakfast that day. Over the last ten years, much has been written about the legacy of that great restaurant in the sky and the people that worked there. Here's a guide to the best remembrances of Windows on the World, plus photos and links that tell its story before 09/11/01.

  • (Photo: NY MAG/Ezra Stoller/Esto)
  • (Photo)
  • (Esquire)
  • (Photo)
  • Late 90s, post-renovation: (photo)
  • Left to right: GM Alan Lewis, chef Andrew Renee, restaurateur Joe Baum. (photo: Edible Manhattan)
  • Opening staff. (Photo: Suzette Howes)
  • Teacup. (Photo)
  • Matchbook. (Photo)
  • Gift card. (Photo)
  • Menus. (Photo)
  • 70s menu. (Photo)
  • (photo)
  • A special Windows on the World bottle of Veuve Clicquot. (photo)
  • Late 90s (Photo )
  • (Photo)
  • View from the window (photo).

A JBFA profile of Wine Director Kevin Zraly:

· CBS News Interview with Chef Michael Lomonaco from 09/16/01 [YouTube]
· The Restaurateurs of Colors, Both Former WOTW Employees [YouTube]
· Windows on the World - Then, and Now [CBS News]

If you have any remembrances of Windows on the World, do drop them in the comments.

Remembering 9/11: The Photo Archive - HISTORY

Ten years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has been defined by its resolve, its values and the resilience with which it has overcome this tragedy. The 9/11 attacks and other acts of terrorism have failed to undermine our values or weaken our society. Americans continue to embrace democratic values and fundamental liberties, instead of fear and oppression.

As the Justice Department and the entire nation honor the memory of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks, the department remains fully committed to the fight against those who target Americans and our way of life. The best way to honor the legacies of the victims of 9/11 is to prevent further terrorist attacks on this country, which remains the highest priority and most urgent work of the department.

Even as we pledge continued vigilance against those who target Americans, our nation can be justifiably proud of its response to these threats over the past decade. America is both stronger and safer than it was a decade ago. Ten years after 9/11, al-Qaeda and its affiliates, while still a serious threat, have a severely degraded capability to attack the homeland. As a result of offensive actions abroad and vigilant security measures at home, the U.S. government has reduced terrorists&rsquo capabilities to perpetrate spectacular attacks on American soil.

For its part, the department has improved its ability to identify, penetrate and dismantle terrorist plots as a result of a series of structural reforms the development of new intelligence and law enforcement tools and a new mindset that values information sharing and prevention, while vigorously protecting civil liberties and privacy interests. Working with partners in the intelligence community, the military and law enforcement, as well as with communities across America and counterparts around the world, the department has not rested -- and will never rest -- in its efforts to safeguard America.

Even as we strive to thwart 100 percent of the plots against us, we know that violent extremists need only succeed once. While absolute security is not possible and much work remains to be done, the Justice Department and its partners have built a much stronger security architecture to maximize our ability to protect the homeland, and are constantly adapting operations in a way that enhances the nation&rsquos security while further delegitimizing the actions of terrorists.

Remembering September 11, 2001

Photo of World Trade Center towers against a clear morning sky on September 11, 2001. Gift of John Labriola.

What I remember about the early morning of September 11 was how beautiful it was--bright blue cloudless skies and a gentle breeze were signs that Washington’s oppressive summer heat was waning and a glorious fall was about to begin. Since it was Tuesday, many of us on the staff were sitting in the auditorium, waiting for a museum-wide meeting to start. The deputy director came into the room and said that the director was on his way down, he was just checking to make sure we were all safe. What?  Five minutes later, the director arrived with the terrible and frightening news of planes hitting the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

We headed back to our offices, where we were told to sit tight, though many supervisors decided that “non-essential employees” could go home if they wanted to. We didn’t know if the Metro was running or if streets were closed to traffic. People were on the phone and internet, trying to get the latest news and check in with loved ones. Rumors were running wild—that there was a bomb at the State Department, that the National Mall was on fire. I lived close enough to walk home, so I put on my sneakers and left. Keeping my eyes on the sky, I avoided my usual route past the White House and walked through a quiet neighborhood instead. The streets were jammed, but there was no honking, no panic. You could see fear and bewilderment in the eyes of passersby, but everyone was kind and helpful.

This clock was knocked to the ground by the impact of American Airlines flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon at 9:32 a.m. The clock was six minutes slow.

Some of my colleagues stayed in the building until later in the day: curators stayed to ensure that our collections were safe security staff stayed to protect the building and the people still inside it, and to coordinate any emergency response. Others stayed because they couldn’t get across the bridges to go home, or wanted to avoid the crowds on the Metro. From the museum's fifth-floor terrace they could see smoke billowing out of the Pentagon.

My story that day was—fortunately—an unremarkable one. I made it home, hugged my husband, called my family, sat glued to the TV, sobbed. I called my intern—who was supposed to start on the 12th—and told her to hold off for a week. We didn’t know when the museum would reopen to the public, or when we would even be allowed back in the building.

We were back at the museum the very next day, but work was a small distraction from the deep sorrow and shock we were all feeling. The museum was busy that week, filled with business travelers from all over the world who couldn’t fly back home because of continuing flight restrictions. When the skies reopened, the museum emptied, and we were left to consider how we would respond to the national tragedy.

Flag recovered from the World Trade Center.

Historians and curators discussed how to collect and preserve tangible materials from this shattering event, trying to balance the urgency to document the ephemeral aspects of the moment and the need to provide some long-term historical perspective. Our curatorial staff began a process of researching, collecting, and listening that continues today. 

On December 7, 2001, Congress directed the National Museum of American History to become the official repository for objects related to September 11. The collection includes items from the sites in Washington, New York and Pennsylvania, as well as the national response from around the country. The objects tell amazing stories of heroism, fear, community, and sorrow. The collections will grow as we gain historical perspective and a greater understanding of the events of September 11.

How did you witness history on September 11, 2001? What do you most remember, and how has it affected your life?  Help the Smithsonian document this historic event by sharing your September 11 experience with us. We’re interested in everyone’s experience, no matter where you were or how directly you were involved.  Please share your story and read about the experiences of thousands of other people on our September 11 collection website.

Megan Smith is an Education Specialist at the National Museum of American History.

NIST’s Faulty Evaluation

So, what was the official evaluation given by NIST that was supposed to definitively end any speculation as to why WTC 7 collapsed? According to their report, a thermal expansion of floor beams pushed an adjoining girder off its seat, which led to a subsequent collapse of eight floors. An additional failure of other girders from the same thermal expansion caused a nine-story column to collapse, followed by the collapse of the rest of the interior and then the exterior.
One of the flaws and obvious biases of NIST’s report is that it was started with a predetermined conclusion. Given the nature of the building’s collapse, it would obviously make sense to at least entertain the idea of a controlled demolition, considering that all of the tell-tale signs were there. A report published in Europhysics News, by a group of engineers and physicists, details the flaws in NIST’s report and the apparent bias in its process.
Steven Jones, one of the authors of the report who has gained notoriety in his research, even pointed out a flaw in NIST’s data that led them to change their original evaluation. Jones says this flaw was more along the lines of ignored evidence. NIST’s report ignored the fact that the building, upon collapse, went into free fall. Dr. Shyam Sunder, the lead investigator on NIST’s evaluation said that free fall wasn’t possible because of the structural resistance of the floors below. After Jones contended this issue, based on video of the collapse, NIST conceded that it did in fact go into free fall for 2.25 seconds – a clear characteristic of a controlled demolition. Dr. Sunder is also quoted as saying, “Truthfully, I don’t really know. We’ve had trouble getting a handle on building No. 7.” FEMA’s conclusion is equally as inconclusive…
“The specifics of the fires in WTC 7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time. Although the total diesel fuel on the premises contained massive potential energy, the best hypothesis has only a low probability of occurrence.”