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September 11th, 2008
06:12 PM ET

Behind the lens on 9/11: Capturing a Catastrophe

Editor's Note:
We are devoting many posts today to the anniversary of 9/11, with first-hand accounts, insight, and commentary dedicated to that day seven years ago that changed our world.
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See some of the images Ricky Shine filmed that day for CNN in this special look back at the first hours of 9/11/01 as events unfolded. Viewer discretion is advised.
See some of the images Ricky Shine filmed that day for CNN in this special look back at the first hours of 9/11/01 as events unfolded. Viewer discretion is advised.

Ricky Shine
CNN Photojournalist

"It's going to a beautiful day", I thought to myself as I headed to Manhattan from Queens. There was no haze, it was as clear as can be, and the sky was a deep blue. While driving on the Long Island Expressway towards the Midtown Tunnel, I looked in awe at the city skyline just as I did everyday on my way to work.

I was listening to the morning news on CBS radio. Everything seemed normal as I drove into the darkness of the tunnel. As usual, while in the tunnel I temporarily lost the radio signal. As I exited the tunnel and the radio signal strengthened, I heard the newscasters cut in with breaking news.

"The World Trade Center has been hit by a small plane" they said.

As I was driving rapidly across 34th street, I remember thinking to myself that I might be sent down to the World Trade Center to cover the accident. I kept driving to work and trying to sneak a peek at the Trade Center to see it for myself. When I finally caught a glimpse, I realized that it couldn't have been a small airplane. It had to be a big jetliner because you could see the outline of where the plane went into the building and the wingspan went from one side all the way to the other. I called my assignment desk and was told that my partner already took my gear up to our deck on the roof of the CNN building and I should head straight up there.

As I reached the deck, I saw my partner already shooting with my camera. I ran to the camera position and immediately took over. I put on my headset so I could communicate with the director, and zoomed into the 1st tower of the World Trade Center to show the damage that the plane had caused. It was at that point that I saw out of the corner of my eye, a big explosion in the 2nd tower and zoomed out to see both buildings which were now billowing with smoke.

It was at that moment that I realized we were under attack, and life, as we knew it, would never be the same.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Maureen O. AppleValley, California

    Everyone should watch the documentary, 'In memorium New York 9/11/01'. I had to watch it today in my Political Science class. It made me cry, it made me mad and made me realize/remember why we need to fight terrorism wherever it is.

    September 11, 2008 at 8:19 pm |
  2. Linda

    I was working in Manhattan on 9/11 and still hear my own screams as I watched the first tower come down and then the second and thinking of all the people inside...all the lives that would be forever changed in the worst ways imaginable.
    Recently I read "Wake-Up Call: The Political Education of a 9/11 Widow" by Kristen Breitweiser. More than reading the 9/11 Commission Report, this book made me both angry, sad, and frightened. To read the details of how these attacks could have been prevented, how we're still so damn vulnerable, how much was left out of the 9/11 Commission Report, and to know that our national security was just rated a "C" days ago, to know that we have a VP candidate who just revealed on national television that she would be ready to start a war with Russia – or anywhere else for that matter – without a thought or a negotiation is more than disturbing and scary....
    Wake up America!

    September 11, 2008 at 7:44 pm |
  3. Lynda C. from KCMO

    That morning I was watching the Today show and feeding my new born baby when breaking news came on and they said that a plane had hit the Towers. As I watched and waited to find out what happened, all I could think of was why in the world is that other plane so close to the building if it was on fire. Then CRASH, BOOM, SHI.......... I almost squeezed my baby to death. I look at my daughter today and wonder what is she going to have to endure if this hatred does not come to an end.

    September 11, 2008 at 7:33 pm |