Voices From Behind the Lens - Ground Zero

William B. Plowman:
I've been doing coverage of the Boston Muslim Community. Many of the Muslims I spoke with are just plain scared of reprisals from their neighbors. Salah El-Ehmeada, whose business was destroyed by fire and fears it was racially motivated, says " Everyone I know is in hiding.

Joseph Pobereskin:
Though I've worked for many magazines I'm not a photojournalist, per se. I'm a commercial photographer with a heavy reliance on income from stock photography royalties. And a good portion of those royalties are derived from my photographs of New York City.

Not to diminish the importance of the human story, and with no disrespect intended, or insensitivity to the victims of Tuesday's disaster, but I couldn't help thinking about all of those pictures of the World Trade Center that I've shot over the years. From the east, from the west, from the north, from the south, from the ground, from the air, at dawn, at dusk, on clear days, on hazy days, on good days and on bad days. I've shot those buildings until I couldn't shoot them any more.

I began to shoot New York again, for the first time in a long time. I went back to one of my favorite spots at sunset Wednesday, Sept. 12, to shoot New York City. I don't know how many dozens of times I've shot NYC from there, and I can't believe how strange it was to be without my old friends and favorite subjects. There was only a cloud of smoking dust where the Twin Towers used to be.

As I walked the last quarter mile or so from my car, I could see of another photographer unpacking his gear. I couldn't make out the face from far away but I could tell by the shape of his luggage that it was an old friend and mentor out there that night, doing exactly the same as I. He was just setting up as I reached our favorite spot. I said, "Jake, why am I not surprised to see you?" He said, "Man, am I glad you're here!"

We stayed together until about ten o'clock, a good two hours after we were done shooting, trying to comprehend what we were looking at. It was just too bizarre. We couldn't believe what we were seeing. It was out of a nightmare. It's difficult to view your home town in smoking ruin. Even from across the harbor, these pictures were very difficult to make.

I've been documenting New York City for almost twenty years and I have an intimate relationship with these buildings and, by either extension or personal connection, the people who inhabited them day and night. Photographing the city now, in perhaps its darkest hour, is an integral part of the story. When the smoke clears, I'll begin re-shooting this 'new city' in earnest, all the while remembering what is missing from the scenery - and the people that are no longer in the picture.


Klaus Reisinger:
On Tuesday morning I was in New York to finalize the contract for a National Geographic documentary film. I had just come in from Paris the day before and was in Brooklyn when I heard the first explosion. A fashion photographer who lives nearby loaned me some cameras, an old F2 and a 28mm lens. I drove to the Brooklyn Bridge, which was blocked by police. When the first tower collapsed, people were running out of Manhattan across the Brooklyn bridge. I ran across the bridge towards the smoke. People were stunned, running around, completely lost.

I ended up in a fire station opposite the World Trade Center. The fire station was half destroyed and there was only the fire station chief left. I took off my t-shirt to put over my face. The firemen gave me a fireman jacket and asked me whether I could come with them and help. At that moment there was nobody else, everybody seemed to have run away or was buried beneath the buildings. We went on top of the rubble of the collapsed Twin Towers. It was dark like night and very dangerous. There were holes in the pile of rubble everywhere. Three firefighters, one student and I went into WTC building No. 5, which was on fire.

From the basement, we could see a gigantic hole above. Part of one of the two towers had collapsed into this building and made a gigantic hole through the roof all the way to the basement. The corridors were dark and we stumbled around in the smoke. We had only one flashlight. There were no walkie-talkies or other equipment. We called out for people. Everything had been buried by the collapse. We went up on the other side of the stairs towards building No. 6 but it was too hot. Pieces of building were still falling, smoke was coming out of each floor and we searched everywhere we could. All that time we were calling and shouting, but we didn't find anybody, we didn't hear anybody.

From the roof we saw that some other firemen entering the building and a few seconds later they ran out screaming that the building was about to collapse. We ran down as quickly as possible. A policeman saw me in the fireman jacket taking pictures, and screamed at me. He took the jacket off me even though the firemen were trying to explain that I was helping them in the search. I kept on taking pictures on the ground until I had no more film left.

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