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Video: Rare 9/11 first-hand footage captures real moments of terrorist attacks

A flag flies above the North Tower on Sept. 11, 2019 as NYC held its 18th annual 9/11 ceremony at Ground Zero to honor those who passed away and served in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. (Wes Parnell/New York Daily News/TNS)
September 11, 2023

Two decades have passed since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and every year the world revisits the haunting footage captured by CBS News photojournalist Mark LaGanga.

LaGanga’s 29 minutes of video footage provides an unparalleled look into the chaos, confusion and valiant efforts of rescue workers at ground zero — moments that stand still in time between the collapses of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

According to CBS News, on the morning of 9/11, LaGanga received a phone call directing him to drive to lower Manhattan. A CBS News editor told him to drive to downtown Manhattan to film video footage of what was originally believed to be a plane crash into a New York City building.

Initially unaware of the magnitude of the events unfolding before him, LaGanga eventually found himself in a scene of apocalyptic proportions.

Upon arriving, LaGanga was unable to drive further due to the clogged streets.

“There was so much dust and the street signs were hard to see that it never really dawned on me that one tower already came down,” he said in a 2018 interview.

As LaGanga moved closer to the scene of the terrorist attack, interviewing shocked passersby and first responders, the unimaginable occurred as the north tower began to collapse.

“It sounded like a jet flying over,” LaGanga recounted. “That’s why I panned up.”

In a wave of chaos, people fled, and LaGanga’s camera was overtaken by a dark cloud of debris, marking a haunting end to his footage of the terrorist attack.

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LaGanga returned to film the recovery efforts for an entire week following the attack. Despite being exposed to the toxic dust and debris from 9/11, the photojournalist said he has not experienced any health consequences from his time there, according to CBS.

Now a 60 Minutes cameraman, LaGanga has previously reflected on the importance of his role in the media.

“At the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is capture real moments,” he explained. “So you just kind of follow and try not to get in anyone’s way. But document real moments of what’s going on.”

The footage LaGanga captured the morning of 9/11 remains an invaluable testament to the sacrifices and courage displayed by emergency workers, as well as a haunting reminder of the events that forever changed the Western world.

This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.