Thomas Hoepker’s 9/11 Photo Is Fascinatingly Disturbing

Posted: September 10, 2016 in Amazing and Interesting Stories, Deep Thoughts, Great Photographs

So I came across this photo that was taken on 9/11 and I’m endlessly intrigued by it. It shows a group of New Yorkers relaxing and chatting in the sun in a park in Brooklyn, apparently unfazed by the carnage behind them. Or are they? There behind them, across brilliant blue water and beautiful sky, a terrible cloud of smoke and dust rises above lower Manhattan from the place where two towers were struck by hijacked airliners that morning and have collapsed, killing, by fire, smoke, falling or jumping or crushing in the buildings’ final fall, nearly 3,000 people.

How I missed this photograph for so long is a mystery to me, but what am I actually looking at as I view it? Hoepker didn’t release the photo until 2006 because he was worried about the controversy it would create. Indeed, upon its release many people were outraged at the apparent callousness of the people shown. But is that really what the people were feeling? The man on the far right, Walter Sipser, says those in the photo were actually “in a profound state of shock and disbelief.” And what about the photo is so disturbing? Is it the woman who seems to be sunbathing? Or is she just turned to look at the photographer or listen to Sipser? Maybe the group had just gathered to look at the skyline and smoke and somehow come to grips with what had happened. How are people supposed to act after something so unprecedentedly horrific has happened? Should they have stayed inside?

Take a look at the photo. What do you think?


  1. Jim and Madeleine Grandey says:

    I can understand how they might not have been aware of what actually happened. I’m sure they didn’t have a radio with them

Gimme a holler.

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