Voices From Behind the Lens - Ground Zero

Danielle Richards, Staff Photographer, The Record, Bergen County, NJ:
I thought a pilot of a private plane suffered a heart attack and crashed into the World Trade Center. I never thought of a deliberate act. As I was making my way down to the ferry terminal to try and get to the scene, I heard about a second plane hitting the other tower. That thought was just too hard to believe, and I switched radio stations thinking it was a mistake. Then I saw the skyline.....

I was stuck in traffic trying to get to Weehawken and all I could do was pray. The hardest thing for me was the frustration of not being able to get into the city and keeping my emotions in check as the day's events unfolded. I saw how stunned people were coming off the ferry and even today, almost two weeks later, it is still so hard to comprehend the magnitude of it.

The most poignant image I remember is from the next day, a pedestrian bridge facing the smoldering remains of the towers. Someone had written "God Bless" in the dust and ash on the railing of the bridge. I think that's when everything started to sink in for me. I can only hope that we emerge stronger and braver as a result of all this, and that those who died didn't do so in vain.

Carolina Salguero:
On September 11th, I piled into my boat since the Brooklyn Bridge was shut down. I"ve been photographing the waterfront and use the water as a road more than most New Yorkers; so, thanks to the docks at North Cove, I was able to get quickly into Ground Zero. After several hours working, my professional concentration got a wake-up shock. I saw a firetruck silhouetted against smoke, its unattended roof hose belching water, a dark mass of firemen shapes rushing below. I got that photojournalist rush of knowing I had a visual, a moment, and began to work it. Then I saw the truck name "Happy Hookers" and realized it was my local Red Hook company.

I asked nearby firemen "Are you from Red Hook? Are you from Red Hook." Glum "no's" all said; "the truck is here, but no men." I left the scene knowing I had excellent film but saddened thinking all my local firemen were lost. I have since learned that my neighborhood lost 15 firemen and have decided to donate a share of my sales to FDNY relief funds. During my years of foreign work, it was often hard to know whether reportage helped or whether it should be about that, hard to know how to help if one wanted to; but now, here it is very different. Our photo subjects are us and the ways to donate are clear. I hope all photographers and media outlets that profit from sales donate to relief funds.


Helayne Seidman, Freelance, New York Post
On Tuesday morning, September 11, my editor at the New York Post paged me, saying a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. By the time I got there, the second plane had struck and lower Manhattan was chaotic. People were all over the sidewalks, watching in shock. I was shooting on Broadway near Fulton St. when the first tower collapsed. This huge rolling avalanche of dust and debris came towards me, and everyone was running away. My first thought was, "should I stay or run?" Then I instinctively ran from the dust ball because I could not breathe. I feared the other tower might collapse, so I covered the exodus of people, rather than going back closer. The conflict of whether I should have gone back or not has haunted me all week.

Shannon Stapleton, Freelance, New York:
On the third night after the attack on World Trade Center, I came home to my pregnant wife lying comfortably asleep. I had seen her a total of 3 hours in three days, and just being in her presence gave me a sense of tranquility. I lay down thinking I could go to sleep from exhaustion, but instead found myself an emotional wreck, crying my eyes out. I could not get the picture of Father Judge out of my mind, and the sirens from ringing in my ears. I did not even know that the photo I had taken was Father Judge until Thursday, when one of the newspapers identified him.

On Friday I received a faxed letter at the Reuters office, from the family of Father Mychal Judge, Chaplain of the FDNY. The letter thanked me for such a "compassionate" photo and went on to say " that photograph has given a sense of relief and has let us know that he died doing what he loved best, helping his beloved firemen and citizens of New York City. In addition, the photo helps us deal with the hurt and pain that the terrorists inflicted not only on our family, but our entire country." I still get choked up and hold back tears knowing that a photo could make such a positive impact on such a horrific event.

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