Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center in New York City. On that fateful day, Mark Phillips was living with his wife and daughter in Brooklyn.
A seasoned photojournalist, Phillips immediately grabbed his cameras to capture the terror attacks as they unfolded. One of his photos, known as Satan in the Smoke, became a worldwide phenomenon and an indelible image of one of the Nation’s darkest days.
Phillips, who grew up on Plumtree Road in Springfield but has spent the last thirty years living in New York City, shared his memories of 9/11 and what it was like capturing such an iconic image with Producer Dave Fraser.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center in New York City. On that fateful day, Springfield native Mark Phillips was living with his wife and daughter in Brooklyn.
A seasoned photojournalist, Phillips immediately grabbed his cameras to capture the terror attacks as they unfolded. One of his photos, known as Satan in the Smoke, became a worldwide phenomenon and an indelible image of one of the nation’s darkest days.
Philips shared his memories of 9/11 and what it was like capturing such an iconic image with producer Dave Fraser.
Mark Phillips, Photojournalist: The World Trade Center buildings, the Twin Towers, were just so imposing. I mean, everybody complained that they were boxy, but as a photographer, when you looked at those buildings, all day long, the light would change on it.
You could get half the building lit, half of it in shadow. You could get shimmering light going across it from reflections off the water. So, the buildings just had a remarkable effect for photography. They just dominated the skyline.
9/11/2001, my wife and I, we were both working at that point, and we both had places we were supposed to be that day. But it was my daughter’s first day of preschool at Montessori, so we both decided to stay home, walk her to school, and go off and do our jobs and be back in time for her getting out.
But that morning changed radically, when my wife shouted to me from the living room, she goes, “Mark, you’ve got to come see this.”
Archive Footage: And we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.
Mark Phillips: I looked out our front window and I could see smoke coming up from lower Manhattan. So, I ran and grab my cameras, and we were in a building roughly three miles from the World Trade Center footprint. And we had a roof deck on top of our co-op building.
So, I ran up, started climbing the ladder to go up onto the roof, and I heard the biggest explosion I’ve ever heard as I was raising the hatch to go up on the roof. And I climbed up onto the roof and look towards the city, and both of the buildings were on fire.
I had two cameras, a digital camera and a film camera, and the digital camera was higher, so it was the one I grabbed first. And I shot about six frames before I dropped the camera down again, and then shot some film photos.
You know, I went with the digital because I had to develop film, so I slapped the card from my digital camera into my computer. The first picture came up, and it was like, it looked really good. So, I got on the phone with AP. I worked out a deal with them and I hit send, never knowing what was really contained in the smoke of that photo.
That next day, I woke up in the morning, and I turned on my computer, and when I hit “Get Mail,” it was just one email after another, it just kept coming in. And then my phone rang and it was my photo agent., and the first words out of his mouth was, “Did you know that there was a face in your photograph?”
I feel like this image was one of the first social media viral images of this digital age. 2001, there was no Facebook, there was no Instagram. You know, there wasn’t a dissemination method for digital images because it only ran in two newspapers. But it was emailed. I mean, I would have to guess it was emailed almost a million times.
It was so hard to believe that the buildings were gone. The night after the attack, we went to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and people had laid out candles and pictures of missing people on the rails. And you just looked at that and you couldn’t believe what was going on.
To have the 20th anniversary on a Saturday, kind of is poignant. So, you know, you kind of feel like you have to give that day to the remembrance. Every time I look at the new building, I think about what’s gone, and it still feels raw 20 years later.