TOPICS > World

Faces of 9/11

September 10, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, some photographs taken last September 11, that are from an essay edited by New York Times Television for the Discovery Civilization Channel. The voices are those of the New York Times photographers who took the pictures.

CHANG W. LEE, Photographer: When I was taking a picture from upstairs on the rooftop, i just could see the smoke coming out from the building. I had a very, very long lens, so I tried to get, like, every corner and every part of the building, even though I couldn’t see it clearly. It wasn’t until the next day that I took a look at this picture, and it was very, very devastating. I saw a man hanging outside the window. He still hasn’t given up. He was still hoping he could survive. I don’t know how long he stayed there, but we know he didn’t make it.

ANGEL FRANCO, Photographer: I was there about 15 minutes before the first tower went down. I was photographing crowds, reaction shots of people looking up when I’d look up at the building, and it’s coming down. And there’s a man in another building looking at this stuff happening. And as I turn around to look at the people behind me, I find these two women that are sort of frozen in time, you know, with this look of fear, dismay– just frozen. I turned around, I did the sign of the cross, and I proceeded to head South.

CHANG W. LEE: I was walking on 7th Avenue, down towards the World Trade Center. I was just looking at the tower. And there was just a lot of smoke. At one point, it was so bad that I was thinking that the thing was going to collapse any second. As soon as I said that, the North Tower starts to collapse. People were, like, screaming, yelling, cursing, just couldn’t believe what was happening. It’s probably the hardest moments I will remember for the rest of my life. I don’t know, it was when that building collapsed. It was thousands of people losing their lives.

ANGEL FRANCO: As I was almost close to the second building, a police van drove in. As the officers are telling us to move back, this building flared up and started to collapse. We had this big shadow of debris just coming down the street. I ran about two to three blocks to a business that the doors were open. As the debris was coming down the street, there was this shadow, and it felt like it took forever. So I did the sequence of this shadow just coming, and everything getting darker, and then the stuff hitting the ground, and then this quiet.

ANDREA MOHIN, Photographer: This is from the Brooklyn Bridge moments within half an hour after the second tower has collapsed. On this otherwise beautiful, sunny day, this exodus of survivors slowly made its way out of the smoke and into the sunlight. I ran into this man, Joseph Sylvester, who said he worked at the World Financial Center. He was covered in ash. And his head was bleeding from a piece of debris that had fallen on him. He said he was looking for his father, who he had not found, who worked in the area. People obviously were just grabbing anything that was important to them, and trying to get out as quickly as possible. I’ll never forget how calm and quiet they were. I think everyone must have been in shock, just silently, slowly making their way to safety.

ANGEL FRANCO: I did this photograph of the sun trying to come… to pierce through this cloud of smoke and fire of where the World Trade Centers used to be. And as I was shooting that moment, I realized that I wasn’t covering news anymore. I was covering history, you know, of America being under attack. I went through this experience where I realized that, “God, there must be a lot of people dead now.” And I realized that the Trades weren’t there anymore, that my life had changed, and the life in America that I knew had changed. As I approached the area, which is now called Ground Zero, I saw all these fire trucks lined up. Half of them were buried, covered with whatever was left of the Trade Centers, and you could hear the crackling of the fires; they were still going. Firefighters were calling out for their friends, partners, for probees, you know, guys that just came out of the academy, and they couldn’t hear anyone coming back. And then when they realized that they were the ones that had survived, they started hosing down the areas of the fire. They started this digging-out process, and trying to recover whoever was underneath the rubble. And they just kept digging.

KRISTA NILES, Photographer: The devastation was so complete, the firefighters did not know how to start. Not only were they coming to terms with just the sheer devastation, there were thousands of people, including their own, inside each building as each tower fell. How can you start? You can’t. The firefighter in the center has just been confirmed that his brother, who was also a firefighter, was in Tower 2 as it collapsed. They almost had to force him to allow them to hug him. And as soon as they touched him, the bravado just melted away.

CHANGE W. LEE: Around 3:00, we were right on the west part of the World Trade Center. The towers kept burning. And it was burning like that for hours. There was firefighters climbing ladders to go inside the building to see if there was any survivors. And they were doing everything they could, you know. I don’t… nobody there never seen anything like that. There was one firefighter on the street sort of sitting and not thinking. They were lost, they were devastated. And Manhattan has never been that quiet.