Photographing 9/11: ‘What did they think as they jumped?’

It was September 2001 and I had been despatched to New York to cowl a boxing match for a Puerto Rican newspaper. It was a world championship bout between Puerto Rican boxer Felix Trinidad and the American boxer Bernard Hopkins.

Trinidad was a superb buddy of mine and the paper would ship me to cowl most of his fights. I’d requested to not go on that exact deployment however I used to be informed I needed to go.

So, on Saturday, September 8, I boarded a flight from the Puerto Rican capital, San Juan.

The combat was scheduled to happen on the next Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

On the morning of September 11, I headed to Central Park with photojournalists from two different Puerto Rican newspapers. Hopkins’ workforce had blocked entry to his coaching periods, which was uncommon, however we hoped to identify him coaching within the park. We agreed that if certainly one of us noticed him, we’d share the placement with the others so we may every get the photographs. It labored, and after we’d taken the images, we went for breakfast on 53rd Street.

That was when a type of I used to be with acquired a name from Puerto Rico telling him a aircraft had crashed into the World Trade Center. At first, he thought it was a joke. Then my boss known as and informed me to get to the towers to {photograph} the crash.

We instantly picked up our cameras and left, asking a taxi to take us to downtown.

By this time, the town – from 14th Street to downtown – had been sealed to all people besides first responders. We received as shut as we may however had been nonetheless a way from the towers. So we jumped out of the taxi, handed the driving force a $20 invoice and began operating alongside West Broadway in direction of the towers. As we ran the 35 blocks, weaving out and in of the crowds, we stopped often to {photograph} the chaos round us.

After about 25 minutes, we had been inside a block of the towers and there, on a quiet nook between Park Place and West Broadway, I noticed a policeman, trying up on the North Tower. There was no person else round. I took a photograph of him – capturing a picture of that day that has been extensively used since.

Firefighters stroll in direction of one of many towers on the World Trade Center earlier than it collapsed after a aircraft hit the constructing on September 11, 2001, in New York City [Jose Jimenez/Primera Hora/Getty Images]

As I carried on strolling in direction of the towers, a person in an FBI jacket handed me by. Shortly after, one other in a Secret Service jacket walked previous. I discovered it unusual that they’d be there for a aircraft crash.

I circled and began strolling in direction of the West Side Highway, and as I used to be strolling, I noticed the primary individual bounce. She was a Black girl, in a wise skirt and vest high. I may see her clearly. It was like she was simply floating.

I picked up my digicam and took a photograph. I bear in mind saying to my fellow photographer Xavier Araujo, “Wow, somebody just jumped.” But he refused to imagine me. He thought it was a bit of the constructing falling. But I used to be shut sufficient to inform it was an individual. I used to be so shut I may see her face. She appeared calm and relaxed, as if she had no different possibility however to leap. She wasn’t screaming for assist or out of fear. I knew I used to be fortunate to not see her hit the pavement.

When we received to the west aspect of the North Tower, we noticed many different folks leaping from the home windows. Those photographs have stayed with me, and I usually marvel what will need to have gone via their minds earlier than they determined to leap.

I had been there for about 20 minutes after I heard the horrible sound, like a large tree department breaking, because the North Tower crumbled.

I photographed it because it collapsed and it was solely then, when it not obscured my view, that I realised the South Tower had additionally fallen utterly.

As I ran from the mayhem, I took one body of a person kneeling on the ground crying, his shirt all torn. I switched lenses and noticed a toddler operating and screaming. As I took that body, it jogged my memory of the photograph of the “Napalm girl” from the Vietnam War.

I spotted my digital playing cards had been all full, so I ran a number of blocks to the Getty Images workplace on Varick Street. There, I used to be importing the contents of my reminiscence card to a pc once we had been informed we would have liked to evacuate the constructing as a result of the police suspected a bomb had been positioned on the Holland Tunnel, adjoining to the workplace.

I left and took a taxi again to my resort, from the place I filed the pictures I had taken. My newspaper ran a late version that day and used my pictures for it.

People hold from the home windows of the North Tower of the World Trade Center after a hijacked airliner hit the constructing on September 11, 2001, in New York City [Jose Jimenez/Primera Hora/Getty Images]

For the remainder of the day, I stayed in my room. I cried rather a lot. I bear in mind calling my ex-wife however being barely capable of communicate. Between sobs, I screamed, attempting to inform her how many individuals I had seen bounce from the towers.

To today, I nonetheless haven’t any recollection of what I did between 6pm on September 11 and the next morning. It will need to have been due to the shock.

When I awakened at 6am on September 12, I walked for greater than 20 blocks in direction of the towers. I didn’t see a single individual throughout that stroll, not even a canine. I remorse not having taken these photos as a result of I’m positive that was the one time in New York City’s historical past that the streets had been so empty. I want these photographs existed, someplace different than simply in my thoughts, as a result of they had been a part of the 9/11 story, too.

I spent 21 days masking the 9/11 story earlier than photographing the postponed Trinidad-Hopkins combat on September 29 and eventually returning to Puerto Rico.

Today, I nonetheless have flashbacks – photographs of the folks standing within the home windows earlier than they jumped. I’m wondering what it was they noticed that helped them make peace with that call.

More importantly, it has all the time jogged my memory how fragile we’re and that as human beings, we must always give respect an opportunity. All races, cultures and nations ought to halt this fixed creation of scars that has led to so many wars and conflicts similar to 9/11.

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