by Frank LoBuono
It was my very first assignment for CBS News in NY; 9/12/2001. The Towers had fallen the day before and I watched in horror with the rest of the world. I was freelancing as a news photographer at the time and finally got through to a friend at CBS to offer my services. He asked, “how quickly can you pack a bag and get to W57th St.?” My reply was, “I’m already packed”. I grabbed my 35 mm SLR and what ever film I had in the house (I did not have a digital camera at that time) and bolted for the CBS Broadcast Center on W57th. I realized in the car that I only had two rolls of black and white film, 36 and 24 exposures. But they would have to do. There was no time to stop. Besides, my primary function would be to use a video camera to document what was happening. The still photography is always done as a second function. Be that as it may, I obviously knew that I would be witnessing a historic event and I wanted to be able to document it in every way possible.
Shortly after arriving at the chaos that was CBS, another photographer and I were to take our gear, hitch a ride downtown and report to 40 Worth St., at the corner of Greenwich. From there we would be assigned a camera with a long lens on the roof of that building, 40 stories above the carnage, to document the recovery efforts, 24 hours a day, until further notice. We could work out our own schedule as long as their was 24 hour coverage. We caught a ride with a food truck that was going downtown to deliver supplies to a CBS command post on W12th St. From our understanding, we would have to walk the rest of the way as the City was closed below that point to all traffic except emergency vehicles.
After we left the truck we cleared security and began our trek the rest of the way to where the Towers had once stood. We walked in eerie silence (the City had been evacuated from that point to the Battery), guided by these two enormous plums of smoke where the World Trade Center should have been! What so struck me was that they were like two specters, mirroring in ghostly fashion, what used to be!!
We finally arrived at our destination and were immediately shocked by what we saw. The destruction of the Towers was complete and massive. This would be a long and difficult gig. But we couldn’t dwell on that; we had a job to do and we got right to it. My partner and I would use our long lens to shoot down from the roof, forty stories up, into the rubble that where the Twin Towers to capture any potential rescues or recoveries. In the beginning it was so intense that we both worked virtually 24 hours continuously. However, after the first day or two we managed to split the day into twelve hour shifts.
Because I spent so many various hours at Ground Zero, it afforded me a unique, virtually 24 hour perspective. And, in addition to my perch high above the carnage, I also had the opportunity to witness it from ground level in my off hours. I used my film sparingly to capture what I believe to be some very unique images of a terrible eight days.
Eight days that can never be forgotten. It certainly changed me. It changed all of us. I present my photos but once a year, on the anniversary of this tragic event. It is too painful and too inappropriate to use them for any other purpose but as a memorial to those who were lost.
Greenwich St. The remains of WTC Bldg. 7
The smoldering remains of WTC 7. South along Greenwich.
South along the West Highway.
Ground level, Broadway. What’s left of the façade of the South Tower. Approx. 4 a.m.
The work never stopped. And the people who support those workers, like The Red Cross, never stopped either. This is an aid station along Greenwich St.
The rescue/recovery work never stopped. These men are heading down Greenwich to Bldg. 7.
A Red Cross aid station. Those volunteers were great!
Looking South/East towards Brooklyn. The haze from the destruction spread far and wide.
Looking North. In a strange way, it was beautiful, too.
To see Frank’s complete post with additional pictures, visit In Memory of 9/11/2001.
Frank LoBuono has lived in Nyack for over 30 years writing and covering Rockland County in print, on TV and online. He works as a cameraman and an editor for a major TV News organization. You can read his blog at Talk-Frank.blogspot.com.