World Trade Center Attack

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2002 Pulitzer Prize, Spot News Photography, Steve Ludlum, New York Times

Sept. 11. 2001, dawns dear, a great day for a morning walk. At 8:30 a.m., as artist and freelance photographer Steve Ludlum strolls the Brooklyn waterfront, he sees black smoke pouring from the North Tower of the World Trade Center across the river. Sprinting, Ludlum runs home for his camera and finds a friend to drive him to the Manhattan Bridge to locate a good view of the World Trade Center.

Ludlum rests his zoom lens on a fence's iron railing. He adjusts his camera, unaware that United Airlines Flight 175 is headed straight for the South Tower. He doesn't see the plane hit, but a ball of fire appeared in his viewfinder. "Bomb." he thinks, releasing the shutter.

His regular photo lab is too busy. Reluctantly he opts for a one-hour drugstore service. Ninety anxious minutes later, he opens the envelope. The negative is sharp. His next stop is The New York Times.

Ludlum reacts emotionally to the disaster that killed so many that day. He says, "An artist has one shot at greatness and this was mine."

Note: The New York Times staff photographers were among the first to arrive at the World Trade Center disaster scene. Because communications were disrupted, the Times photo editors had no way of knowing if their photographers were alive. After risking their lives to record the destruction of the World Trade Center, they fought through blinding smoke and falling debris to deliver their film to the Times. Steve Ludlum’s photograph was submitted as part of the Times' portfolio.

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