Many thousands of images were captured of the destruction that befell the United States on September 11, 2001. The deadly attacks by Al Qaeda using four hijacked passenger planes saw the total destruction of the World Trade Center, an aerial assault on the Pentagon and the deaths of brave passengers who overpowered terrorists on United Flight 93. These harrowing images stand as a memorial to the 2,977 innocents who died in total.
Freelance photo editor Kelly Price was in Manhattan on a job on the morning of September 11. After the first hit on the Twin Towers, she dashed into a corner shop and purchased some disposable cameras. Then, as the first of the towers started to collapse, Price fled – but stopped for a moment to capture this shot.
An unknown and exhausted rescue worker takes a break from his work in this photo taken by Ezra Shaw. The horror and stress of 9/11 are plain to see in the man’s face and body language. Rescue workers – firefighters, police medics and others – were the heroes in the aftermath of the horrific events of 9/11.
Bolivar Arellano snapped this terrifying shot of the South Tower collapsing. He told The Huffington Post, “Suddenly you could hear a loud explosion, dry like the sound of piercing metal, and then ‘trac, trac, trac.’ The tower was reducing floor by floor like a house of cards. I managed to take one picture and ran.”
This startling juxtaposition of a pregnant woman and the burning World Trade Center has an unsettling power. The woman is Isabel Daser Bessler, a German citizen who was 32 at the time, and her baby came along less than a month later. The photo, meanwhile, was taken by a colleague of Bessler’s, although she can’t remember who.
This next photo was taken by professional photographer Patricia McDonough. It’s a view from her living room window in an apartment four blocks from the Twin Towers. After taking some photos, McDonough rushed to the scene with first-aid equipment to offer what help she could.
This extraordinary shot of a UPS worker going about his delivery job was taken by photographer Melanie Einzig. In fact, though, it was some years before Einzig actually published the image. You see, she had been concerned that it might be open to misinterpretation or even offensive to some.
Here, the Pentagon, the heart of U.S. military might, burns into the night after having been hit by one of the hijacked planes earlier in the day. Five Al Qaeda terrorists overpowered the crew of American Airlines Flight 77; and as a result, the terrorists, 59 passengers and crew and 125 people who were in the Pentagon died.
This is another photo by Ron Agam, the renowned fine art photographer who turned to documentary for the day on 9/11. Speaking to The Algemeiner, Agam, a French-Israeli, said, “The emotion that really overtook me was awe at the firefighters and policemen going into the buildings, knowing they were not likely to come out alive.”
At the time, video artist Wolfgang Staehle had a project underway that involved taking shots of the Manhattan skyline from a Brooklyn window. Photographs were taken at four-second intervals. Now look carefully at the top righthand corner of the first frame and you’ll see hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 speeding towards the South Tower.
Here, rescue workers and civilians run from the dust cloud that was created by the collapse of the Twin Towers. The toxic cloud included asbestos, glass fibers, steel and cement. And this poisonous plume even caused a specific ailment, known as the World Trade Center cough, which was prevalent among those who worked at the towers’ location following the collapse.
Looking at this image of the wreckage left after the collapse of the Twin Towers, it’s almost impossible to believe that we’re viewing the remains of what were once two of the world’s most imposing buildings. When the towers opened in 1973, they stood more than 1,300 feet tall; then following 9/11, it took eight months to clear away the remaining debris.
This image of the aftermath of the Twin Towers attack was captured by Mario Tama. He had been there when the South Tower collapsed and remembered the experience in an interview with The Dallas News. As he put it, “At that moment I was transformed from being an observer, a photographer, a witness, into just another New Yorker running for his life.”
Professional photographer Spencer Platt was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge when he captured this horrifying shot at the moment United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower. Platt told American Photo, “I didn’t hear the second plane, and I certainly didn’t see it. I had put my camera up to take some more frames, and then it just hit.”
Flabbergasted onlookers watch from a vantage point at Park Row and Beekman Street, about a half-mile from the World Trade Center, as the South Tower collapses. Time photographer Patrick Witty later discovered that the man in center-frame with glasses is Benjamin Tabile. Tabile was on his way to the towers for a job interview but had been delayed.
This photograph spectacularly captures the split second before United Airlines Flight 175 rams into the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. Incredibly, photographer Rob Howard captured this shot from the window of his apartment at Rector Street and Broadway, a mere ten-minute walk from the World Trade Center.
Launched in 1999, NASA’s Landsat 7 satellite’s mission was to keep the archive of satellite photography up to date. Then on September 12, the day after the destruction of the World Trade Center, it captured this remarkable image. Plumes of smoke from the site of the atrocity are still clearly visible.
This picture shows the crash site of United Flight 93. The Boeing 757–222 was hijacked by four terrorists – who were, however, ultimately overpowered by incredibly brave passengers. Sadly, the plane crashed in open country in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, killing all 40 passengers and crew – plus the four hijackers.
This is another shot that was taken with a disposable camera by Kelly Price on Broadway. The man running just ahead of the threatening cloud of dust is journalist George Mannes. In David Friend’s book about 9/11, Mannes later remembered, “I tried to outrun it as it chased me south down Broadway, but I lost.”
This photo shows a shocking contrast between the elegant spire of Manhattan’s oldest church, St. Paul’s Chapel, and the collapsing South Tower, little more than 300 yards away. Miraculously, the church – built in 1766 – emerged from the chaos and destruction around it with not even one window smashed.
The state of these wrecked automobiles gives a vivid idea of the chaos and destruction that was caused by the Twin Towers fire and collapse. They also help illustrate the thickness of the horrible dust clouds that were created by the rapid crumbling of the buildings. This picture was taken by Ron Agam, who’s better known as a fine artist than as a documentary photographer.