Kevin P. Coughlin | 9/11
I covered a photo assignment Monday morning, 9/10, at the Marriott World Trade Center which is/was located adjacent to one of the towers. I recall accidentally going through the turnstile doors of the South Tower along West Street, thinking I was entering the hotel. As a native New Yorker, I learned a long time ago not to “look up at the tall buildings” (like a vulnerable tourist)….Little did I realize how vulnerable even the most hardened New Yorkers are to the forces of evil.
I shot my assignment, which was a conference hosted by the presidents of the federal Reserve Banks of St. Louis and Philadelphia, and left the Marriott World Trade Center thinking, “Wow, what a beautiful hotel!” complete with a lovely fountain in the enormous foyer exposing a skylight view of the Twin Towers. – My favorite buildings in the world! In fact, I stopped at the Citibank ATM to get some cash. I still have the receipt reading “Date: Sept. 10, 2001 Time: 10:24 Location: 1 World Trade Center”
I was on assignment for The New York Times Tuesday morning covering a Democratic primary race in Glen Cove, Long Island when I heard a report of the Towers being attacked by two hijacked jetliners. That report soon escalated to an attack on the Pentagon, followed by reports of the Twin Towers collapsing! I quickly got on my Harley and sped off to the Brooklyn Promenade, knowing full well that all access in and out of New York would be quickly sealed. It was the strangest, eeriest feeling looking at the “Million Dollar View” of New York’s Skyline and seeing an enormous cloud of smoke instead of the towers. I thought I was seeing an illusion; Where were the towers?
That evening, I was called by Bloomberg News to cover the possible collapse of other buildings around the WTC. I got on the Long Island Rail Road, which had just resumed service into New York, and headed to Penn Station where I caught the E train which went only as far as Houston Street. From there I “hoofed” it for at least 5 miles. Lower Manhattan was, and continues at the time of writing, to be under a state of martial law. Police officers and National Guard troops sealed off streets and allowed only residents with picture ID access to those areas. Forget the Press credentials issued by the NYPD which state “bearer shall be permitted to pass police and fire lines where ever formed” – THEY WERE BUYIN’ IT!
I had to move through the darkness until I finally reached ground zero. The National Guard and multiple law enforcement agencies made it difficult for the press to get near the zone. For a brief period, I took refuge in the ATM lobby of a closed Citibank branch on Liberty Place. I caught a few winks there and emerged at 3 am Wednesday morning to view the aftermath of the disaster. I photographed the search and rescue scene well into and beyond daybreak, and then returned with the images to Bloomberg’s offices at 499 Park Avenue.
14 of my photos were moved on Bloomberg’s news service that day. Another 14 pictures from today were moved by Thursday evening (I had gone back to “Ground Zero” and photographed the search and body recoveries of some of the many thousands buried underneath the rubble of glass and steel). It is now 1:22am Friday morning and I have to be up and at ’em again by 8am. I apologize for such a long email, but I felt it necessary to get it out there.
I’ve enclosed a pic of myself at “Ground Zero” taken by Philadelphia Inquirer photographer David Swanson. The “smile” on my face is a forced one as truly no one at the scene has anything to be happy about. It is a reminder that we all should thank God to be alive today.