San Antonio photographer remembers experience near Ground Zero

On Sept. 11, 2001, Mark Roddenberry was working in his studio eight blocks away from the World Trade Center in New York City.

by NOELLE GARDNER

KENS 5 SAN ANTONIO

On Sept. 11, 2001, Mark Roddenberry was working in his studio eight blocks away from the World Trade Center in New York City.

While the nation was watching the attacks unfold and the towers crumble, Roddenberry was on the scene -- taking pictures.

“That day was like a script out a movie," Roddenberry said. "When I look at the pictures, I can tell 10 stories. It is impossible to remember all the details about 9/11, but with the photos you can remember everything.”

Roddenberry, who now has a photography studio in San Antonio, said looking at his photographs from that day brings back memories he wouldn't recall otherwise.

"Still now, all these years later, I still see things I had not noticed before," he said. "It's not that there aren't times I don't question the idea of just letting this thing go, just not yet."

Back then, Roddenberry shared a studio with a few photographers in Manhattan, but they were out of town that day.

He talks about the morning of 9/11:

"A friend of mine named Mike suddenly came running from the other end of the long hallway that led out onto Broadway. I remember him screaming like a frightened child. He said, ‘the World Trade Center is on fire. It's been hit by a plane. Get your camera."

Roddenberry said that day was like a scene from a movie.

"All these people were in the street. Normally the traffic ran south. Now there were what seemed to be an endless stream of very, very frightened people. It was at that instant (that) I started to turn back. It was heartbreaking."

"I felt such sympathy for them. They, on the other hand, seemed -- by the looks they gave me -- to have utter contempt for me. I completed agreed, as I too felt this not to be the time for such foolishness. After all, what possible purpose could there be for recording whatever it was that was so horrible?"

When Roddenberry ran out of film, he went back to his studio. His friends could not believe he made it back alive.

He recalls feeling awful taking pictures.

"I was so ashamed of what I was doing, I honestly thought about the idea of hiding the camera and coming back for it later. I got back to the studio and my friends where frantic. They pointed at the television screen, and to our astonishment, the South Tower was collapsing."

"It didn't seem possible. Only a few minutes ago, I could see them both. They were on fire but they were there. I couldn't help it: I had to go back up one more time."

Roddenberry went back to take more pictures. That is when he said a woman leaving a post office saved his life:

"She was coming out of the entryway, running to get out. She screamed, 'The building is going to go.' I ran from under the Tower. When I got to the corner of WTC7, there was this enormous black wall moving at a speed far too fast to outrun."

"I had just enough time to run as fast as I could to a truck directly in front of me, just around the corner of the building. The truck created enough of a pocket that I was able to get down by the back tire. I could hear the debris moving by me at incredible speeds but all I could think of was to try to breathe."

“It was the perfect bomb. The top stories were on fire. When I turned, I saw the blast coming toward me. It was a huge, 20-story tall black wall. It was like a surfer waiting for a wave, and when you turn there is a wave so enormous you don’t expect. There was no way anyone could have gotten away from it."

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