9/11 is a dark part of American History and one of the biggest uniters of people from both sides of the table. As time has gone on, more and more folks feel comfortable sharing stories about what happened that day. And over the years, we’ve helped tell the stories of so many photographers and what they went through on 9/11. Here are a few quotes we’ve had from photographers in interviews we’ve done.
Lead image by David Handschuh. Licensed by the photographer.
Matthew McDermott Was in Shock But Thankful He Was There
Well, I’ll tell you what was incredible. It was a beautiful day. It was a crystal clear sunny day. And there were times, and you can see this in the photos, where the smoke is everywhere; you can’t see a thing. But then all of a sudden, the wind would blow through and shift, and it would blow all the smoke in one direction and the sun would come through. And then you’re literally standing like you’re on another planet. You’re jumping from beam to beam, each the size of a car. There’s these massive steel beams, there’s fire, blowing out of different spots. And you sit there going like, “My God, this is New York City. I mean, this is my city where I live, and these are Americans; how the hell did this happen?”
Matthew is a photographer that feels blessed that he was there when 9/11 happened, as it was a very historical event for so many photographers. And in our interview, he shares that he was just always able to compose himself.
David Handschuh Needed Time to Recover
I don’t think it was strength; I think it was just reptilian memory. A couple of times, I had to say to myself, “Pay attention, focus, capture the moment”, in my mind. I think if I would have just concentrated on what I was seeing, I would have just stood there with my mouth open. But my job was to take photos, and I just had to keep reminding myself to focus. And I don’t mean focus with my lens, but focus on the job that had to be done.
Photographer David Handschuh has shot very iconic images of 9/11 when it happened. He spent some time recovering after debris fell on him from the event. And his story is pretty telling of the chaos that happened that day.
Ira Block Had Quite a Bit to Share
“Emotionally speaking, I wasn’t trying to get in. This is my home, and I was trying to figure out what was happening. I wasn’t a news photographer, and I wasn’t going after breaking news stories.”
Former National Geographic photographer Ira Block grew up here in NYC. And when he looked at what was happening around him, he was in serious shock. Later on, he photographed items from the disaster and had to compose himself.
Michel Leroy Shot 9/11 and Felt a Lot of Emotions
“We were all in shock, you could read it on the faces of all those around me living through this singular moment, but as many photographers have come to learn through experience, when you are behind a lens you are detached in a way that allows you to keep shooting when you might otherwise be overwhelmed with emotion.”
David Forrest Shares a Different Perspective About the 9/11 Tragedy
As an artist and photographer, I wanted to convey the significance of what I saw through the viewfinder on September 11th. In a fraction of a second a meaningful fleeting moment was captured on film. The details, expressions and the composition of each unique film moment I selected illustrate the emotional atmosphere of that day.
Steve Simon Saw People Differently
“As a matter of fact, you know, as a photojournalist I’ve learned to sort of keep a low profile, but the magnitude of the expressions and what the people were experiencing was such that, honestly, even though I love working with a wide lens for the intimacy that I get with one, and I did, people just didn’t see me. They really didn’t. They were just alone, kind of in their own experiences and thoughts as to kind of what they were looking at when they got closed to Ground Zero.”