At around 8 PM, on September 10, 2001 I was on one of the last LaGuardia – Reagan Delta shuttles to leave New York City. I was returning from a trip to the laboratory at the hospital located on the U.S. Military Academy base in West Point, NY. We had completed a successful AABB blood bank inspection and was returning home to Washington. It was a trip I had done several times previously as the pathology consultant to Keller Army Community Hospital and would do several more times over the next four years on frequent site visits and to cover frozen sections as Keller did not have a full-time pathologist. This experience was the nidus for telepathology in the Army. I figured there had to be an easier way to cover remote frozens than to fly to New York City or drive for hours each way for 15 minutes of work.
On this particular trip, leaving LaGuardia, I was able to capture a few images of lower Manhattan and the New York harbor. At the time, I was still taking pictures with a film camera (and still do sometimes but it is getting harder to find quality film and processing facilities…). After takeoff I pulled out my old but trusty Nikkormat FT2 camera, snapped on my equally old but reliable 200mm lens and was able to get off 3 exposures.
The lighting cooperated despite slow film and my telephoto lens. I like the grainy nature, particularly for black and white photos. I did not realize what I had on the roll until many months later and saw what are likely some of the last images of the World Trade Center, particularly from the air. I could not find the original negatives but was able to scan some 4×6 prints I had made. About 12 hours after I took this picture, the first plane hit the North tower of the World Trade Center.