Watts, Daily News:
I remember waking up that morning and thinking what a beautiful
day it was. After photographing mayoral candidate Mark Green voting
at 7am, I made some general voting feature pictures. My next assignment
was at 11am, when Mayor Giuliani was going to vote. I had set up
my laptop at a local Starbucks to transmit my pictures when my pager
went off, "Forget election, a plane just hit the World Trade
Center." I jumped up, closed my computer, grabbed the coffee
and bagel and bolted out the door.
I heard the WTC activity on my police scanner, expecting to hear
that some knucklehead pilot flew his Cessna or Piper into the building.
But I heard them talking about an American Airlines plane. Impossible.
Must be a mistake. That cannot happen. I heard the sirens of the
emergency vehicles behind me. I trailed close behind the vehicles
with their lights and sirens when suddenly I heard on the scanner,
"Another plane just crashed into the other tower." I realized
they were attacking us.
I raced down the FDR behind the responding vehicles, weaving through
Lower Manhattan. After parking the car at Fulton Street, I ran over
to Church Street and saw the Towers blazing. People were running
out of the building screaming and crying and bleeding. Some had
their skin peeling off their bodies from burns. Bodies were falling
from the sky. The scene was chaotic. The police were attempting
crowd control as photographers and TV cameramen swarmed. It was
I kept my camera pointed at the building for a while and realized
that I was missing other pictures. I turned my back to the building
and was about to make pictures of people looking up at the flames.
Suddenly the crowd began to run faster and I felt the ground rumble
like an earthquake. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion.
As I turned around, I saw a huge gray-black billowing tornado of
smoke coming right at me. The cops screamed, "RUN! RUN!"
There was a stampede on the streets - people screaming, running.
I remember my sunglasses flying off my head, my 80-200mm lens falling
out of my pouch, my flash ripped off the hot shoe. I dove under
a truck, thinking it would shield me. I thought it was a bomb. I
never imagined that it was the building coming down. I figured,
they got us from the air, planted bombs on the ground and they were
going to decimate us. I envisioned the truck exploding or collapsing
on me. I ran into a nearby pharmacy. People started shouting to
get away from the glass. Through the window, it became black as
night. You could not see a thing. I thought the building would explode
I grabbed the phone inside the pharmacy and called my boss. "Are
you safe?" he asked. "None of us are safe. They are bombing
us. We are all going to die. I'm trapped. This is the last call."
I ran in the back with the others. It was chaos. Somehow I ended
up in the lobby of an adjoining building. I saw photographer Brigitte
Stelzer from The Post. We hugged and agreed to stick together. Through
the windows of the lobby we could see outside. It was like Mars,
or some bizarre looking winter. A gray hazy snow of debris was everywhere.
People looked like ghosts - dazed and drifting aimlessly. We had
to go out there. I couldn't see, my eyes burned, my lungs hurt from
the dust. I covered my nose and mouth with my shirt and tried to
shoot pictures. I was in shock. I did not know where I was. Disoriented,
I followed the screams of, "Go north, head north." We
drifted north to the foot of City Hall. I continued shooting the
ash-covered people and those who were fleeing over the Brooklyn
Bridge. Then, the screams of, "RUN! RUN!" Started again,
and we ran again. It was the second tower coming down.
As we neared the West Side Highway, the cops and emergency workers
began to run toward us again screaming, "RUN! There is a gas
leak on the West Side Highway and it is going to explode!"
Again we ran. We made it to Tribeca and saw the smoke and debris
in the distance. People on the street began shouting that another
plane had also hit the Pentagon. Cries of, "they are going
to get the Empire State Building next," echoed. I believed
the world was coming to an end.
The second plane slammed into the second tower about two minutes
before I got to the roof of the Flatiron Building and started shooting.
Seeing the two towers burn was the worst thing I've ever seen. I
still can't find the words to describe how I felt when I saw the
first tower collapse. The camera went silent as I suddenly realized
my girlfriend Cara was working on a political campaign at the base
of the World Trade Center. I felt sick, as I though I'd just photographed
the death of nearly everyone I love.
I ran about a block and a half to the nearest photo lab, gave them
my film and grabbed their phone. I called Cara's cell phone. Nothing.
I called home. She was OK. Very, very shaken up and crying uncontrollably,
but OK. She had been on the ground floor of the first tower when
the first plane hit. She saw the second plane explode in Tower Two
from two blocks away. She was very lucky, she got on what was probably
the last subway to get out of lower Manhattan. This morning we attended
photojournalist Bill Biggart's funeral. I feel so deeply for Bill's
wife and three children. I still can't believe what I saw. I'm sure
I never will. I still can't believe what I felt. I'm sure I never