Monday, September 10, 2001 found me in my Seattle, Washington
studio gathering new material together for my portfolio and web
site with photo editor Jenny Moore. In the course of pulling out
files I came across a box of photos I had not looked at in five
They were prints of photos I had
taken on February 26, 1993 at the bombing of the World Trade Center
in New York.
I showed them to Jenny and she was amazed that anyone could have
tried such an unlikely thing as blowing up the Twin Towers. At 6
a.m. the next morning, numerous calls from friends in New York and
Washington, D.C. woke me, telling me to turn on the television.
I watched in horror as the second attack on the World Trade Center
proved to be more devastating than any of the terrorists could have
My wife and I absorbed
the events of September 11, paralyzed in our bed until after noon.
I was strongly feeling a great sense of relief that I was not
in New York. I knew I would surely have rushed to the site of
the Twin Towers as I had back on that day in 1993, despite a good
chance that I too would have perished.
At the same time, and
just as strongly, I regretted being so far away. I felt that I
was watching what might well be the biggest news story of my life
on a television set from 3,000 miles away. I should have been
there to photograph the events of that day. Many of my former
colleagues were there and I missed the adrenaline rush that comes
from competing with some of the best photographers in the world
on a really big story, for the best photos to tell that story.
This is what I spent the largest part of my life doing.
I knew the World Trade
Center from bottom to top and inside out. I spent almost every
day after the February 26th bombing working on one story or another
for months as investigators searched for clues and the cleanup
and rebuilding went on.
It took me a while to
realize that there was another reason that I wish I had been there
working on the story. For perhaps the first time I could remember,
I was aware of feeling very strong emotions about what was happening
in New York. For weeks after Sept. 11, I continued to feel them.
I wanted to be there working
on the story from morning to late at night for 7 days a week,
because I knew that as long as I was working on the story, I would
need to concentrate on telling the story for others with my cameras
and could thus post-pone if not completely avoid the pain of processing
It was how I had been
able to work on so many other heart-breaking stories in my career.
It was a new experience feeling mortal like everyone else.
After spending most of
the day in front of the television, it was late in the afternoon
before I went back to my studio for the first time. Sitting on
my light table, still open was the box of prints I had been showing
to Jenny the evening before. I could not help but feel a chill
down my spine, somehow feeling there was a close connection between
my act of opening that old box of photos the day before, and the
events on September 11.
For what it really means
I do not know. Make of it what you will. Here are some of those
Many of the people in
these pictures have black soot around their mouth and nose. Thousands
walked down more than 100 flights of steps in unlighted and unventilated
stairways. They breathed in smoke coming up from the fires below
caused by a truck bomb in the parking garage, which gouged out
a cavern five or six sub-levels high. Six people died and many
more were severely hurt.
Many lessons were
learned from that day's experience in terror and many improvements
were implemented in the months afterwards. There is no way to
know exactly how many lives were saved on September 11, 2001,
from the experience of February 26, 1993, but it is certain that
the number of dead and missing would have been much greater.