Photo Shows Woman Watching Twin Towers Burn During 9/11 Attacks?

Claim:

A photo shared online in early July 2024 authentically showed a young woman seated on a building ledge and watching one of the Twin Towers burn during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

On July 2, 2024, an X user posted a photo of a young woman in New York City watching on as one of the Twin Towers burned during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

“This girl sat there taking pics and just let 9/11 happen,” the caption read.

The post had amassed more than 27.8 million views at the time of this writing.

Some people replying to the post were unsure whether the image was real. One wrote: “Have never seen this photo before. I’ll assume it’s fake for engagement… like this.”

Another said: “Can’t be real. She’d have been cold that morning dressed like this. It was a crisp morning.”

One X user even suggested the picture had been digitally manipulated: “I’m guessing this is ai. First this picture is too clear to be from 2001 and second it looks like she has another finger growing off of her ring finger. Something just doesn’t seem right.”

Similar posts appeared elsewhere on social media in early July, including Threads and Instagram.

However, the photo had been circulating online for more than a decade. Snopes found two examples from 2019, on Imgur and Reddit, two more Reddit posts from 2017 and 2016, and a post on Flickr from 2013.

Snopes traced the image back to Los Angeles-based photographer Ari Abramczyk, who confirmed via email she took picture. She also showed us other photographs she captured from that moment but asked us not to publish them. Abramczyk provided Snopes with the original files, where the metadata showed they were taken on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Abramczyk said she initially put the photo in question on Flickr in 2005; however, she was uncomfortable with how widely it circulated online, so she took it down.

On Sept. 12, 2021, Abramczyk wrote a post on Instagram explaining the story behind the image:

I think it’s time I set the story straight on this image. This is my image, I took it when I was 18, living in Tribeca in a model apartment on the West Side Highway in New York. I’ve always been pretty private about these images. This image was posted one time, on Flickr, with a small caption, when I was in school for photojournalism, and never again since. I have never released the other images from that day, and I don’t know if I ever will. I have never sold this image or given permission for anyone to post it. I have never made a single penny off of it, and would never want to. In the 15 or so years since I made that image public, it has taken on a life of its own, and every year, several friends tag me in posts to alert me where the image has gone. I’ve never wanted to make a post about it, but this year, on the 20th anniversary of the attack, the comments got even more brutal. Every year, I have a panic attack. Every year I am so disturbed, so effected by what people say about it. I thought maybe it was time to get the real story out there. I don’t think I owe anyone an explanation. I lived through a traumatic event and I had PTSD for many years. Maybe I still do. But I thought maybe, if the real story is out there, it might ease my mind on the coming years.

She later told Snopes she was 17 when she took the picture, not 18.

Abramczyk provided a more thorough explanation behind the photo in a follow-up post the same day. She said she was working as a model at the time and lived with three other models in her Tribeca apartment. On the morning of Sept. 11, she was woken up by an “incredibly intense” sound that shook the building.

I looked out of the window to the street below and saw nothing. Then I looked over and saw it. One of the twin towers was on fire. I started to hear people screaming. People were running down the highway away from the building.

Abramczyk explained that she grabbed her camera and went up to the roof to take photos to process what was happening.

“It was a shield between me and the world. I didn’t know what else to do,” she wrote.

“One of my new roommates sat down on the ledge, and I saw this wild juxtaposition between her beauty and the horror in front of us, and I took the picture.”

She then said she witnessed another plane hitting the second tower before packing a bag and fleeing her apartment while screaming and crying.

The photographer took more pictures upon reaching the street and even more in the following weeks. She said the event made her realize she wanted to be a photographer but later switched to commercial photography as she “didn’t have the stomach” for photojournalism.

However, Abramczyk explained how she regretted posting the photo online:

I regret posting the image with model’s name who is in it. I captioned it like I had been told to do in school. I imagine that she sees this image every year, and I imagine it’s probably painful for her, too. I have never spoken to her again, nor has she reached out to me. But if you ever read this, please know that I am sorry. If I could take that back, I would. I have relived this moment so many times. I think maybe it will ease my mind that I know that the real story is out there, if people want to know it.

Although Abramczyk asked Snopes not to publish the other images, she did give us permission to use the photograph in question in this article.

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