9/11 in pictures: The iconic images from the day the world changed forever

The Scotsman’s head of audio visual, Andrew O’Brien, recalls the day the world changed

The big square television sat on the end of the desk. A fixture normally unnoticed as it churned out a daily diet of rolling ‘news’

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“A plane has hit the World Trade Centre” our deputy picture editor, Terry McGourty, exclaimed as the first pictures appeared.

People run away from the collapsing World Trade Center

It was lunchtime in Edinburgh, a quiet Tuesday, and the first plane had struck the North Tower at 12:46 our time. We stood and gathered around the television, A light aircraft? A tourist helicopter? We tried to guess what had happened, not ready for the previously unimaginable nightmare that was to unfold in front of us.

In New York, the cameras were focused on the symbolic towers that completed the Manhattan skyline. At 09:03, less than 20 minutes after the first, a second plane, United Airlines flight 175, crashed into the South Tower.

The room was quiet, clusters of people gathered together, silently. In shock.

The unthinkable had happened, the magnitude was unsaid. We all knew this was a significant day, minds were already racing, but we had no information. Not yet.

Firefighters raise a flag late in the afternoon on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, in the wreckage of the World Trade Center towers in New York. In the most devastating terrorist onslaught ever waged against the United States, knife-wielding hijackers crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center on Tuesday, toppling its twin 110-story towers. (AP Photo/The Record, Thomas E. Franklin) Terrorist attacks in America 11.09.2001.

We returned to our monitors, our windows on the world, where soon, pictures would come that would define our memories and immortalise this day.

More news was breaking from Washington, half an hour since the Trade Centre attacks, American Airlines flight 77, crashed into The Pentagon, killing 184 people including 59 passengers and crew on the plane. Shortly after, the passengers of Flight 93 begin a revolt and that plane crashed in Pennsylvania, possibly preventing an attack on The White House itself.

Alongside our picture editor, Alan Macdonald, we monitored the feeds of pictures. New York, home to some of the world’s biggest photo agencies, the finest photographers - back then not everybody carried a camera, the smartphone wasn’t a ‘thing’ – everybody had scrambled. Fashion photographers, it was New York Fashion Week, worked alongside sports photographers, alongside news photographers to record the dramatic, traumatic, consequences of hijacked aeroplanes flying into 1,350 ft tall skyscrapers.

An incredible image arrived. Spencer Platt of Getty images had run across Brooklyn Bridge, raising his camera to take some more frames, “I didn’t hear the second plane and I certainly didn’t see it” In among those frames was an image that would help us understand the enormity of what had taken place, the huge fireball at the moment of impact. “I was overwhelmed with thirst, I was just shocked at everything and my throat went dry” he later said.

People hang from windows of World Trade Center after two hijacked passenger planes hit the building September 11, 2001 in New York City in an alleged terrorist attack. (Photo by Jose Jimenez/Primera Hora/Getty Images)

Our news pages were cleared, the copy boy loaded the printers and tables were emptied to make room for the prints. Everything A3. The scale of the disaster needed to be fully seen

The wires were starting to move more quickly now, more and more pictures flooding into the system.

We probably received more than 70,000 images that day, when we look back though, it is maybe a dozen that we remember most clearly.

The whole situation, already incredulous, took another turn when the buildings collapsed.

This file photo dated 11 September 2001 shows Edward Fine covering his mouth as he walks through the debris after the collapse of one of the World Trade Center Towers in New York. Fine was on the 78th floor of 1 World Trade Center when it was hit by a hijacked plane 11 September. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo by STAN HONDA / AFP) (Photo by STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images)

Pictures arrived of people fleeing the scene, a giant cloud of dust and debris chasing them down the street, finding its way into every crack.

The aftermath revealed people covered head to toe, pavements, cars, everything thick with dust. A businessman painted white still carrying his briefcase.

A fireman making his way up the stairs of the tower as sweat soaked workers filed down the stairs fleeing for their lives. Does he survive? Mike Kehoe did survive, 343 of his fellow firefighters died that day.

President George W Bush is informed while sitting in a class full of primary school age children.

In a scene reminiscent of US marines in Iwo Jima, New Jersey photographer, Thomas E Franklin, captures the moment three New York firefighters raise the Stars and Stripes over Ground Zero

In the days that follow the dust settles and the sun shines through the mangled wreckage.

This 11 September 2001 file photo shows Marcy Borders covered in dust as she takes refuge in an office building after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed in New York. Borders was caught outside on the street as the cloud of smoke and dust enveloped the area. The woman was caught outside on the street as the cloud of smoke and dust enveloped the area. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo by STAN HONDA / AFP) (Photo by STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images)

The paper is pulled together. Pictures are chosen and headlines are written.

We have witnessed the start of a war that may never end.

In a reference to President Roosvelt the day after Pearl Harbour, The Scotsman headline reads – The Date Which Will Live in Infamy

Mike Kehoe The New York firefighter, 36, was photographed racing up the stairs minutes before the first tower fell. For two days, newspapers reported he had been running to his death. When they found he was alive, he became a reluctant symbol of the bravery shown by rescuers. "I've had enough of being the hero and I just don't want to talk about it any more. "I went over to England for the Pride of Britain awards and everyone was treating me like a hero, like I had saved hundreds of people. But I only saved one person that day, and it was me. I saved my own life because I ran. We were all so terrified. "You get used to burning buildings because you see them all the time, but this was something none of us could have ever imagined.
The rubble of the World Trade Center smoulders following a terrorist attack September 11, 2001 in New York. A hijacked plane crashed into and destroyed the landmark structure. AFP PHOTO/Alexandre Fuchs (Photo by ALEXANDRE FUCHS / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDRE FUCHS/AFP via Getty Images)
President Bush's Chief of Staff Andy Card whispers into the ear of the President to give him word of the plane crashes into the World Trade Center, during a visit to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla., Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)
Thick smoke billows into the sky from the area behind the Statue of Liberty, lower left, where the World Trade Center was, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Daniel Hulshizer)
Front page of The Scotsman for September the 12th, the day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York. Two airliners were flown into the twin towers on 9/11 killing nearly three thousand people
The World Trade Center burning after two airliners crashed into the buildings in New York City, Tuesday September 11, 2001. Photo by Gabe Palacio/ImageDirect.
A fiery blasts rocks the World Trade Center after being hit by two planes September 11, 2001 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)