Exactly 10 years after the first plane hit, New York City police officer Danny Shea, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, snapped a salute at the corner of the reflecting pool that stands on the footprint of what was the North Tower. Just as he was a decade ago, photojournalist David Handschuh was there to share the moment with the world.
Handschuh was struck by the angular geometry of the scene, with the flag-draped One World Trade Center rising in the background. It summed up the sense of grief, solemnity and renewal that infused the event.
Chosen as one of 10 pool photographers who were given what he called "limited free-range" access to the Ground Zero site for the 10th anniversary, Handschuh stayed until the late evening that day, snapping as many images as possible, catching up with survivors and first responders, and paying respects to friends whose names are among the nearly 3,000 inscribed around the reflecting pools.
One of those fallen colleagues was Bill Biggart, a photojournalist working alongside Handschuh that day who was killed by falling debris. Another was Glen Pettit, a police officer and videographer who was there both to document the scene for the NYPD and to assist with the rescue efforts. "When Glen died, he had a camera on his shoulder, a badge around his neck and a gun on his hip," Handschuh says.
Ground Zero is a sacred spot, but it holds a personal meaning for Handschuh. As a photographer for the New York Daily News, he was one of the first journalists to arrive at the World Trade Center. He was standing almost directly beneath the burning World Trade Center when the South Tower began coming down around him. The cloud of debris picked him up and tossed him for nearly a full city block, seriously injuring his legs.
Unable to walk, he was carried to safety by a number of people, including firefighters from Engine 217 firehouse in Brooklyn. He credits the Engine 217 crew with saving his life. Four of them did not make it out alive.
"I've gone back every year on every anniversary," Handschuh says. "I go there to remember the good people who aren't here anymore — to cry, to document, to run into people who survived it with me."
Handschuh still keeps in touch with the Engine 217 crew. And his 16-year-old son has become a volunteer firefighter.
Today, except for a few aches and pains, Handschuh's physical injuries have healed. He still shoots for the Daily News, although instead of covering fires and shootings, he specializes in food and travel photography.
What's taking longer to heal are the emotional scars. "Ten years is an arbitrary time period," he says. "There's still a real sense of loss. Not a day goes by when something doesn't bring back a memory of that day. The bottom line is I'm still here."