West Side Rag »Neighborhood Photographer Shares Photos of 9/11 After 20 Years; “I always have a camera with me”

Posted on September 11, 2021 at 8:10 am by Carol Tannenhauser

Text and photographs by Stephen Harmon

There are certain events that touch you so deeply that you will always remember where you were, who you were with, and what you thought when you experienced or learned about the event. The assassination of President Kennedy and the attack on the World Trade Center are, for me, two such events. On the 20th anniversary of the World Trade Center attack, I still remember this morning in vivid detail. At the time, I was an Upper West Sider and a partner in a law firm that had three floors of offices in the Chrysler Building.

On the morning of September 11, I had breakfast in Times Square at the Marriott Marquee hotel with a client who was going to give a statement later that morning in my office in the Chrysler Building. After breakfast, we took a cab heading east to Lexington Avenue. The Chrysler Building is on Lexington at the corner of East 42nd Street. It was a little after 8:45 a.m.

While we were driving and talking the taxi driver interrupted us and said we might like to hear the news he was listening to on the radio. We heard a vague report of a plane crashing into the north tower of the WTC. We immediately thought it was a Cessna or some other small plane. As the taxi pulled up in front of the Chrysler Building, I saw hundreds of people come out and asked someone what was going on. The person told me that a plane had crashed into the WTC and the Chrysler Building had to be evacuated because it was so high and could also be a target. No one had mentioned a jet yet. I did not know what to do. Even though I was a lawyer, I was also a photographer and always had a camera with me.

My dentist was on the 59th floor of the Chrysler with a view directly south over Manhattan to the WTC. I hadn’t thought about the collapse of the towers and at that time I still thought that a small plane had crashed into one of the towers, so I decided to go up to the 59th floor to see if the office was open so I could take a picture to record this “historic” event. When I arrived the office was open but empty. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I took two photos that I only showed a few friends and family, but now post here feeling the confusion, fear and chills I was feeling then. I quickly left and had to walk back to the Upper West Side because at that time the subways were closed and there was no more bus service. The whole city center was a big parking lot.

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