Allan Tannenbaum (76) had actually seen almost everything: the legendary New York photographer took pictures of John Lennon and Yoko Ono naked in bed, of the release of Nelson Mandela, the first Gulf War, the Intifada.
But what he saw on September 11, 2001 was beyond anything. The pictures that Tannenbaum captured back then changed the world forever.
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Tannenbaum still remembers the noise when flight AA 11 headed for the World Trade Center. He was in Manhattan, within sight of the twin towers. “It was as loud as the runway at JFK airport, I thought the plane was about to crash in the next block,” he says. Moments later, bright explosive flames shot out of the north tower. Tannenbaum: “I knew instinctively: It wasn’t an accident, it was a terrorist attack!”
The photographer grabs his cameras and rushes to the burning tower. Just arrived, he stares into a fireball: United Airlines Flight 175, also hijacked, sped into the south tower. “I held the lens on it and thought this is probably my last photo.”
He witnessed incredibly horrific scenes: “I saw people falling out of the towers. To imagine that someone would be faced with the choice of either burning themselves to death or falling a hundred floors down, that’s really inconceivable! “
But Tannenbaum sticks to it, even takes pictures when the south tower collapses. “Then I ran until the cloud of dust caught up with me. I stopped because I could no longer see anything. People wandered aimlessly through the dust, it was like we were caught in a bad horror movie. “
As the dust clears, he sees the extent of the destruction. Where the south tower was just a moment ago, there is only a ruin.