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11 September 2021

9/11, 20 years on: 20 images that documented the horror of the twin towers terror attacks

11 September 2021

September 11 was a day of indelible images — apocalyptic, surreal, violent, ghostly, both monumental and profoundly personal. Wrenching to remember. Impossible to forget.

The terrorist attacks in the US were captured in countless pictures by news photographers, bystanders, emergency service personnel, security cameras, FBI agents and others. Even an astronaut on the International Space Station took some.

Twenty years later, The Associated Press has curated 20 of its photographers’ frames from the day, when hijackers used commercial planes as missiles and crashed into New York’s World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

A plane approaches New York’s World Trade Centre moments before it struck the tower (William Kratzke/AP)
People flee the falling South Tower of the World Trade Center on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)
Firefighters work beneath the destroyed mullions, the vertical struts, of the World Trade Center in New York on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people and toppled the 110-storey Twin Towers.

Pedestrians in lower Manhattan watch smoke billow from New York’s World Trade Center on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)
Smoke billows from one of the towers of the World Trade Center as flames and debris explode from the second tower, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Chao Soi Cheong)
People flee the scene near New York’s World Trade Center Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff)

The photos document the enormity, chaos and emotion of 9/11 on every scale, from panoramic views of smoke rising over New York’s skyline to a close-up of the anxious, smudged face of a woman hastening down a street blanketed with ashen dust.

Smoke billows through buildings in Manhattan as seen from Brooklyn after the collapse of New York’s World Trade Center, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Fire and smoke billows from the north tower of New York’s World Trade Center on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/David Karp)

Street scenes chart escalating horror as people stare and weep at the burning skyscrapers, then run from the dust cloud billowing through lower Manhattan after one of them crumbles.

Two women hold each other as they watch the World Trade Center burn in New York Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Ernesto Mora)
Pedestrians flee the area of New York’s World Trade Center in lower Manhattan on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

Flames shoot from the windows of the Pentagon, a global symbol of military might that proved vulnerable to an attack by a handful of Islamic militants.

Flames and smoke pour from a building at the Pentagon in Washington on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Will Morris)
Deputy chief of the Army Reserve, Col. Malcolm Bruce Westcott, comforts Pentagon employee Racquel Kelley while giving her medical aid outside the Pentagon in Washington on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Will Morris)

Some show more intimate views of pain, but also humanity — an injured firefighter’s screaming face; a woman walking through the eerie blizzard of Trade Centre debris with her arm around someone else’s shoulder.

People cover their faces as they escape the collapse of New York’s World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Suzanne Plunkett)
People walk over New York’s Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn following the collapse of both World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
The remains of the World Trade Center stands amid the debris in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Alexandre Fuchs)

There are images of determination, including firefighters working amid the smoky rubble and a shopkeeper sweeping up the dust of catastrophe.

A fireman screams in pain as he is rescued shortly after both towers of New York’s World Trade Center collapsed following a terrorist attack, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (Robert Mecea/Newsday via AP)
Harry Shasho sweeps up before being evacuated from his vitamin store after the collapse of New York’s World Trade Center on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Suzanne Plunkett)
A firefighter moves through piles of debris at the site of the World Trade Center in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Graham Morrison)

Finally, as night falls, people gaze across New York Harbour at the smoke, trying to make sense of what happened in front of their eyes.

As we still are today.

Pedestrians on Pierrepont Place in the Brooklyn borough of New York, watch as smoke billows from the remains of the World Trade Center in New York, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

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