9/11 Most Powerful Photos

Years have passed but the memories are still fresh. So many people were affected by the 9/11 tragedy, so many tears were shed, so many hopes were ruined and buried under the rubble of the World Trade Center. To pay the tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack and reflect on America’s biggest tragedy, we collected 9/11 most powerful photos of professional and amateur photographers. Images of despair and sadness. Images of faith and hope.

Photographer Wolfgang Staehle was doing an art project: a panoramic view of the New York skyline. His camera would tick off every few seconds and the picture would be transmitted to a gallery in New York, where the image of 22×9 feet was projected on the wall. Every four seconds the photo would be refreshed. The visitors of the gallery witnessed the tragedy projected on the wall in the real time, not being able to realize whether it was just the artist’s bad joke or the actual stream of the horrifying events.

David Friend, editor at Vanity Fair and author of the book, Watching the World Change: The Stories Behind the Images of 9/11 ÒWolfgang was doing an art project in which he was taking, with a fixed camera in Brooklyn, a panorama of the New York skyline. And every four seconds it would tick off and over the internet he would send, to a gallery in New York, a 22 x 9 foot mural projecting the image of downtown Manhattan. And it would refresh every four seconds. As Wolfgang said, ÔHistory high jacked art. Reality high jacked artÕ. And suddenly he recorded this transformation of New YorkÑmass destruction and death. ItÕs a sense of no art or expression exists without its toehold in reality." A revised edition of Watching the World Change was just published with a preface on the roles that images and social media have played in documenting news events since 9/11.
courtesy of Wolfgang Staehle

On September 11, at 8.46 a.m. 19 members of the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial airlines and flew them into the World Trade Center, crashed Flight 93 in Pennsylvania and struck the side of the Pentagon. Almost 3000 people in New York City died on impact. Contrast of the photo: the cloudless blue sky, gentle warmth of early September, and black horrifying smoke represents the two sides of these shocking events. Tragedy and immeasurable evil contrasts with true humanity, bravery and compassion of those who sacrificed their lives rescuing others, those who spent countless hours looking for survivors, those who bravely fought in order to save people.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

This picture looks like  a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie: one man standing amid the seemingly endless World Trade Center rubble, calling out for survivors. When everyone else is paralysed with shock, this person reaches outб hoping to make the difference. A philosophical question rises: “What one man can do in the face of such tragedy?” Shortly after this photo was taken, a police officer walked him away from this spot. A few minutes later, the second tower collapsed.

one man standing
Photo by DOUG KANTER/AFP/Getty Images

9:59 a.m. – The New Yorkers witness the collapse of the South Tower. Their faces reflect everything. Disbelief. Despair. Fear.

Photo by Patrick Witty

People flee from the collapsing buildings, streets fill with smoke and fear

SUZANNE PLUNKETT/AP/Press Association Images

When the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, President George W. Bush was at a school reading event in Sarasota, Florida. Together with students, he was reading The Pet Goat, a book by Siegfried Engelmann. When White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card informed the president that the second aircraft had hit the World Trade Center, Bush remained in the classroom for a few more minutes, trying to stay strong and cool-minded. Later he explained that keeping children calm was his most important duty at this time. However, the look on his face, his eyes reveal everything: shock, grief and firmness.

Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
A September 11, 2001 file photo shows U.S. President George W. Bush listens as White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card informs him of a second plane hitting the World Trade Center, while Bush was conducting a reading seminar at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. New York City plans to mark the third anniversary of the attacks on the trade center with an observance at the site on September 11 with parents and grandparents of victims reading their names.       REUTERS/Win McNamee

Dust filled the air, pedestrians forged through dense smoke, through the debris, rushing to a safe place, still struggling to process what had happened.

AMY SANCETTA/AP/Press Association Images

New Yorkers had to walk home due to closed bridges and tunnels: only emergency vehicles were allowed to pass. The green sign on the right says: Welcome to Manhattan.


People were trying to find comfort in each others’ hands, while the rawest, purest emotions were bursting out: the whole city was drawn in tears.

ERNESTO MORA/AP/Press Association Images

Lilliputian figures of firefighters walk amid rubble near the base of the destroyed South Tower of the World Trade Center. Small brave men against chaos – the word “heroes” is not enough to describe them.

A group of firefighters walk amid rubble near the base of the destroyed south tower of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. In the worst terror attack on the U.S. mainland in modern history, two hijacked planes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and a third plane hit the Pentagon, across the Potomac river from Washington. REUTERS/Peter Morgan     PP03080044 AS
REUTERS/Peter Morgan

Around 100 rescue dogs, countless emergency service workers and volunteers from the crowd searched the Ground Zero for survivors. There were so few people found alive, that many dogs got depressed, because they though that they didn’t do their job well enough. To boost animals’ morale, the rescue workers were hiding under the rubble, allowing dogs to find them.

rescue dogs

In moments like this, you understand that something truly horrible happened, when the strongest of us break down.

Matt Moyer/AP/Press Association Images
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11, 2001: (SEPTEMBER 11 RETROSPECTIVE) A firefighter breaks down after the World Trade Center buildings collapsed September 11, 2001 after two hijacked airplanes slammed into the twin towers in a terrorist attack. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Mario Tama/Getty Images

A mother and her child, with smoldering ruins of the Twin Towers on the background, hours after the terroristic attacks. Amid the chaos and uncertainty, without any clue how the world is going to look like tomorrow, a mother feeds her child, protecting him from the dangers of the outer world, as much as she can. The photo suggests that the most horrendous things can happen but no matter what, the life goes on.

Alex Webb, photographer "My wife Rebecca's and my first glimpse of lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 was from a rooftop in Brooklyn Heights. That's where I tookÐÐprobably on my first roll of film that dayÑwhat I consider my one singular image from Sept. 11Ña mother and child with the smoldering ruins of the Twin Towers behind. It's a picture, in retrospect, that seems to me to suggest something about how life goes on in the midst of tragedy. Perhaps it also raises questions about what kind of future world awaits the childÑand all of us. One reason this photograph continues to resonate with me is that the situation was different from violence that I'd witnessed in the past in places such as Haiti or Beirut. On September 11, 2001, not only was I photographing this particular mother and child in the city in which I lived, I was also aware ofÑout of the corner of my eyeÑanother woman, my wife, the poet and photographer Rebecca Norris Webb. About an hour earlier and a few miles away in our apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, we were holding each other as we watched the second plane hit the second tower on our small TV. When I started to rush out the door with my cameras to head towards Manhattan, RebeccaÑa photographer who has had little experience photographing conflict or violenceÑsaid she wanted to go with me. I balked. Shouldn't she stay in Brooklyn, away from the chaos of lower Manhattan? Perhaps I shouldn't even goÑa startling notion for a photographer like myself who has covered situations of conflict in the past? And what might happen next to our city on that terrible morning? What if we were separated and unable to communicate during another wave of violence? Amid the chaos and the uncertainty, we chose to stay together and do one of the few things we know how to doÑrespond with a camera. Looking back ten years later, I'm not sure I would have seen this particular photographÑwith its note of tenderness and looming tragedyÑif Rebecca had not been with me."
Photo by Alex Webb

On 9/11, the New York City Police Department lost 23 officers. 37 died from the Port Authority Police. The FDNY’s dead numbered 343. On this picture, a firefighter Tony James cries at the funeral service for New York Fire Department chaplain. The face of James speaks to how millions of people around the world felt after the attacks: even the strongest ones couldn’t withhold the tears.

officer cries
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Gold Coast, Australia, September 11, 2002. One year after the tragic events, over 3,000 people gathered on Surfers Paradise Beach in Australia to form the flag of the United States in order to honour people who were killed in terrorist attacks on the September 11.

GOLD COAST,AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 11:  The flag of the United States is replicated by over three thousand people at a memorial service on Surfers Paradise Beach in Australia to honour the people who were killed in last year's terrorist attacks on the United States,September 11,2002,Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Darren England/Getty Images)
Photo by Darren England/Getty Images

Sometimes, memories of events as abysmal as 9/11, can fade or change over time. However, it is important that we remember that day. It is important that we remember the names of the heroes who risked and even sacrificed their lives in order to save others. The amount of 9/11 victims is enormous but it could have been bigger if not for them. It is important that we keep in mind that after this dreadful event, the sky above New York is never going to be the same. Those who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks will never be forgotten.

9-11 memorial
Vinod Jadhav

Never forget.

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