September 12, 2021

9/11: A chance shot, 3 firefighters, Ground Zero; how the famous photo was made

9/11: A chance shot, 3 firefighters, Ground Zero; how the famous photo was made

Tom Franklin, who was working as a photojournalist for The Record on 9/11, poses for a portrait with a poster of the stamp that depicts the image he took on that fateful day. Wednesday, August 4, 2021

George Johnson, Dan McWilliams, and Bill Eisengrein (left to right) pose for photo with Statue of Liberty in background on August 30, 2002, one year after the photo of the three New York City firemen raising the U.S. flag at Ground Zero was taken by Thomas E. Franklin of The Record. (Yahoo News).

On September 11, 2001 (9/11), no fewer than 19 terrorists wreaked tragedy on Americans. However, a photographer with no idea what life his work would take on, gave Americans a pictorial representation of love, dedication, hope, trust and a will of steel.

The photographer is Tom Franklin, who wasn’t even supposed to be in the newsroom; the image is of three firefighters hoisting the Star-Spangled Banner against the backdrop of the havoc done by Osama Bin Laden’s men.

And the three firefighters are George Johnson, Dan McWilliams and Bill Eisengren, members of a Brooklyn firehouse. But no one knew anyone on that day.

Franklin simply saw firefighters “fumbling” with an American flag near where the Twin Towers had fallen and fired off a burst of photos.

READ ALSO: 20 YEARS AFTER 9/11: Biden, Bush bemoan divided America

He had been in the Dominican Republic for a baseball project and stopped by to talk to his editor at The Record, a newspaper then based in Hackensack, New Jersey.

They were discussing the assignment when someone interrupted with the news that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Centre.

Events quickly unfolded in a mad rush.

“We were on the fourth floor in Hackensack, so I could very clearly see the World Trade Centre from the office and I saw this large, gaping hole in one of the towers,” Franklin said.

“I grabbed my gear and ran down to my car. I called the photo (deputy) editor, Steve Auchard, and told him I was headed toward the city.”

During the drive Franklin realised that he wouldn’t be able to get across the Hudson River into Manhattan, so he rerouted to Jersey City.

He documented the scene as people were brought across by boat. Later in the morning, injured people, covered in dust, began arriving.

A freelance photographer, John Wheeler, helped secure passage on a tugboat going into Manhattan.

Time at Ground Zero

That afternoon, Franklin captured images of wreckage and debris and first responders looking for survivors.

It was nearing 5p.m. and Franklin was running out of digital space, forced to repeatedly delete images to make room for more and down to only one camera.

“While I was doing this I saw these three firemen fumbling with the flag, getting ready to raise it,” he said.

“It didn’t immediately register to me what they were about to do, but I knew it seemed significant. So I moved into position where I could observe what they were doing.

“Then very quickly, in a short burst, they hoisted the flag up a pole and I shot a burst of photographs.”

Franklin knew the photo looked good but it “didn’t really stand out in any way,” compared to everything else he had photographed.

“It wasn’t until much later that I really learned the significance and how unique the photo of the flag being raised was,” he said.

Today, that photo has become symbolic of man’s resilience. And many things to many people.

“The photograph is really about one thing for me and it’s a symbol of three firemen raising a flag in an act of solidarity and unity in the wake of the most horrible attack and tragedy in our country’s history,” he said.

“Years later and I still get letters from people, not as many as I used to but I still get them.

“People will tell me that the photograph makes them think of a lost loved one or reminds them of their patriotism or their faith in our country.”

Source: Yahoo News

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