“That you can be two hours early, but you can’t be a 60th-of-a-second late. In other words, if you’re not there when it happens, you can’t take a picture of it.” -Richard Drew

20 years ago today, Associated Press photographer Richard Drew took one of the most memorable and controversial photographs that iconized the individual horror of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 — “The Falling Man.”

On Photography: Richard Drew
Richard Drew photo: CBS Sunday Morning

Miami Herald interview excerpts

These are excerpts from the book “September 11: The 9/11 Story, Aftermath and Legacy.”

Richard Drew says about the photograph some call to upsetting for readers to look at: “I heard the first of a series of loud cracks, I thought it was the sound of concrete debris striking the ground. But I was wrong. It was the sound of human beings hitting the pavement.”

He described the shot saying, “I focused on one person falling through the air, and shot eight frames. Then there was a huge noise, like an explosion. I just kept shooting; I thought maybe the roof had collapsed. I had no idea the whole building was falling, because I was too close.

“An emergency technician saved my life; he yanked me away. The tower leaned toward us as we ran, and I stopped and shot nine more frames.”

He remembers thinking, “Stupid, probably, but when you’re in shock, it’s like you’re on automatic pilot.”

For a month after the attack, Drew photographed the aftermath: “And my cell phone rang. And it was my daughter. And she says, ‘Dad, I just wanna tell you that I love you.’ And to this day, she calls me on September 11th no matter where I am to say, ‘Dad, I love you.’ Because I might not have survived.”

Richard Drew talks about his career

In this 7:27 video from “CBS Sunday Morning,” Richard Drew talks about his career as an Associated Press photojournalist. He was there when the towers were destroyed on 9/11 and with many other memorable people — Frank Sinatra, Jackie Onassis, Muhammad Ali — events and the assassination of Bobby Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in 1964.

Richard Drew is interviewed about 9/11 and “Falling Man” by John Dickerson for CBS Sunday Morning

Sources: The Miami Herald, CBS Sunday Morning, Esquire.

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