Ten years after 9/11 ABCNews.com caught up with five people captured in some of the most iconic photographs from the center of the devastation at ground zero.
These are their stories.
|Ed Fine, "The Businessman"|
Ever since 9/11, Ed Fine has held on to the dust-covered suit he wore the day he escaped from 79th floor of the North Tower. It's sitting in his closet next to his World Trade Center pass, an unused ferry ticket and his shoes.
Fine, now 68, spoke to ABCNews.com in August from his home in Watchung, N.J., about the day that permanently changed his life.
Prior to 9/11, Fine said he was "pretty much focused on work. Work first, work second, work third …. everything else fourth, fifth, sixth."
After 9/11, he said, "I realized my life and everyone else's life is hanging by a thread. Here today, gone tomorrow."
The former president of Carpe DM, Inc., an investor relations firm, had just ended a meeting in the North Tower and was about to go to an appointment on 41st St., but he missed the elevator heading to the ground floor. It was 8:46 a.m. As he stood waiting, American Airlines flight 11 hit the North Tower.
"Had I gotten on that elevator I would probably not be having this conversation today," he said.
Dust and glass flew toward Fine and he jumped into an adjoining corridor. He began walking down the stairs, and eventually ran into a woman who was handing out wet paper towels. He took one.
Fine made it to the ground floor and had been out of the building for only about four minutes when "I heard this amazing boom."
He turned back and saw the South Tower collapse.
"I was transfixed," Fine said.
As he stood watching the tower fall, someone ran past him, slammed him on the back and "screamed at me to run," Fine said.
He did run, struggling to breathe, and remembered the wet paper towel, putting it in front of his mouth to filter the air.
"If I didn't have that, I might have suffocated," he said.
He managed to get half a block away, and turned on Broadway to get uptown.
"I saw a priest and an EMT on the corner looking back downtown and they had these horrified looks on their faces. All you saw was this massive wall of dust and debris rolling down Broadway, like rolling thunder."
They told him to get down.
"The priest put his hand on my shoulder and was praying like crazy," Fine said.
Eventually, after lying in the debris, he got up and found water at a nearby cafe.
As he began walking up Broadway again, a photographer took his picture. The image appeared on Fortune magazine's cover shortly after 9/11.
"They thought it represented the intrepid businessman rising up from the ashes, undaunted from this event and moving forward regardless of what happened to him," Fine said. "I can see that, and I think it's a good thing that people think it … and maybe to me it's become that. But whenever I look at it I still think I can't believe it's me and I can't believe I survived."
At the time, he didn't realize his picture had been taken. He just kept walking until he found a bus that brought him to the Weehawken, N.J. ferry.
From there he made it home safely, helping a couple of hitchhikers along the way.
"As I walked out of that debris I put 9/11 behind me," he said. "I don't think about it on a daily basis, I've always looked ahead and try never to look back."
Today, he says his 9-year-old granddaughter Selena "and family in general" brings "enormous joy."
So does his profession.
Fine currently works from home as a senior advisor to Unilife Corporation, a medical device manufacturer he joined six months after 9/11.
"After I survived I was looking for something that would bring new meaning into my life," he said.
The company, which makes safety syringes to prevent needle stick injuries, now does all of its manufacturing in the U.S. They relocated from Australia and China to York, Pa., where they now employ 140 people.
"I would like to see more companies do this -- relocate to the U.S. and help build our economy," he said. "The company and I believe we need a strong U.S. economy to lead the world."
The product they make in the U.S. may be more expensive, Fine said, but "the Chinese product was nowhere near the quality of the American product."
In addition, he said their manufacturing equipment produces the product faster. So in the end, the total cost is not higher. The company is now developing drug delivery systems, and planning for expansion.
"If things go right over the next couple years we'll build another plant space and increase employment dramatically," Fine said.
Although he's passionate about his job, Fine says he's also focused on maintaining a work-life balance after the "rebirth" he experienced post-9/11.
"I want to find all the joy I can in the remaining years I have left," he said. "If you don't, you get to the end and say, 'Wow I really missed out, why didn't I change my life when I got a chance?"
|Marcy Borders, "The Dust Lady"|
Marcy Borders was working at Bank of America as a legal administrative assistant in 2001. She was on the 81st floor in the North Tower when the plane hit.
She managed to escape, but about three minutes after she left the building, the South Tower fell.
"I ran but that's when the soot caught me and knocked me on all fours," she said.
Borders doesn't know who rescued her that day, but someone brought her to another building, and that was when her picture was taken. She says she didn't know she was being photographed in that moment. It wasn't until her mother called to tell her she was in the New York Post that she first saw the photo.
"I was devastated at the time -- I didn't like the photo, didn't like that it was taken without knowing if I was out of harm's way," she said. "I know now he [the photographer] was just out doing his job."
She spoke to ABCNews.com in August about her difficult journey over the past 10 years.
"I haven't been back to work since that day," she said.
Borders, 38, says she started drinking heavily after 9/11.
For the past 125 days she's been writing a book about her recovery from drug and alcohol addiction after being caught in the destruction.
"It was a horrific journey," said Borders, who is currently looking for a publisher. "The last 10 years have been crazy."
Borders told ABCNews.com she had been a social drinker prior to 9/11, but had never had a drug or alcohol problem.
"I just tried to black that day out of my life and that was the wrong thing to do but at the time I thought it was the right thing to do," she said.
Now, 10 years later, she says she's kicked her drug and alcohol habit and has been clean since April 18.
"I'm now just getting my legs back," she said. "My next mission after I complete my book is to go back to work."
Writing the book "was healing for me and I hope it heals others," she said. "It allowed me to get out all the things I had stuffed inside and numbed with the drugs and alcohol."
Immediately after 9/11 she said she had trouble sleeping, tormented by nightmares. So she started drinking until she blacked out. Over the past two years, she added, the drinking had failed to make her numb, so she turned to crack and other drugs.
"It got to the point where if you had it, I was doing it," she said.
"I just didn't want to live, I was basically like a garbage pail," she said. "Anything to numb these pains, numb my feelings."
She decided to get clean, she says, when her drug habit started affecting the lives of her 3-year-old son Zay-den and her 18-year-old daughter Noelle, who will be attending college this fall at Saint Peters, a Jesuit college in Jersey City.
"I'm just glad I didn't give up before the miracle happened," she said, referring to her sobriety.
"I used to think that I was a victim and now I'm a survivor -- a totally different outlook," especially now that this year, she says one of her biggest fears disappeared permanently: Osama bin Laden.
Borders and the father of her son, who has stayed by her side for the past 15 years, are still living in Bayonne, N.J., and are now talking about getting married.
"I took back what the devil stole from me, and I just thank God for that," she said.
|Michael McCormack, First Responder|
It had been three days since 9/11, and EMT Mike McCormack was tunneling through the rubble two stories underneath the spot where the World Trade Center had once stood. Suddenly, he noticed "an enormous swatch of red cloth."
"We at first thought we found a woman, that it was a lady's dress," he said.
McCormack and several other men quickly started digging and didn't stop until they unearthed a large flag.
That moment was captured by Vanity Fair photographer Jonas Karlsson at around 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2001, McCormack said. In the famous picture, McCormack and three other first responders are holding a battered, dusty flag.
They didn't realize the significance of what they had found until Port Authority police verified the flag had flown at the top of Tower 1.
In 2004, McCormack said, he was offered the Defense of Liberty medal from New York State. He declined.
"I said I wouldn't accept it unless the medal was given to everybody," McCormack told ABCNews.com, referring to all of the emergency workers who played a role in the 9/11 recovery. "I don't want to be put as the poster boy. It's like everybody down there depended on everyone else … I don't think I'm any more special than the other 16,000 guys who were there."
After spending 36 years as a New York City paramedic and respiratory therapist, he's now retired, plagued by health problems 10 years after 9/11.
"My respiratory trouble has grown exponentially," he said, adding that one of the nodules in his lungs was caused by a "small sliver of metal" that he inhaled.
"It went into my lung tissue -- seared into it and healed over itself," he said.
He's not currently using oxygen, but says, "I can't walk for very long distances without getting winded."
McCormack, who recently left Long Island for Pleasant Mount, Pa., to be closer to his family, said he's also suffering from hypertension, dental problems and orthopedic injuries. The 9/11 clinic he used to visit in New York, however, wasn't set up to treat those conditions.
That's because the $4.3 billion James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act mainly covers respiratory ailments.
McCormack, who has fought for the rights of those injured on 9/11, says there's still a long way to go before the victims of 9/11 get adequate health care.
"I would like to go [back to Washington], I don't know about anyone else," he said.
This year, however, on 9/11 McCormack will travel to Hawley, Pa., to donate one of the World Trade Center memorial flags he received from Congress in 2002.
"Although the terrorists destroyed concrete and steel they failed to extinguish the American spirit," he said.
|David Handschuh, Photographer|
David Handschuh, a New York Daily News photographer and three-time Pulitzer prize nominee, was one of the first photographers to head downtown on 9/11.
He arrived at 8:48 a.m. that morning, just two minutes after American Airlines flight 11 hit the North Tower.
"I used to keep the police and fire radios in the car and they just started screaming about the plane crash," said Handschuh who has been with the Daily News for two decades. "I was on the West Side Highway when a fire department rescue unit came flying by and I just started following."
Handschuh, who is now 52, arrived in time to photograph the second plane hitting the World Trade Center's South Tower.
He was supposed to be in class that morning -- it was the first day of school at NYU where he taught photojournalism. He asked someone to put a note on the classroom door saying "news emergency."
When the first tower came down, he was standing beneath it, and got covered in debris. But firefighters -- the men he refers to as his "guardian angels" -- dug him out, and then two other firefighters carried him to a delicatessen in Battery Park. Just as they arrived at the deli, the second tower came down.
The men who helped dig him out died when the second building collapsed.
"There's no doubt in my mind if they had left me where I was I would have died," Handschuh said.
His colleague, Daily News photographer Todd Maisel, had seen two firefighters carrying a man and began shooting pictures, following them right into the deli, only later realizing that the man they were carrying was his co-worker.
"Fortunately for Todd, if he had been outside taking pictures, he would have been killed also," Handschuh said.
Handschuh's right leg was shattered, and his left leg sustained cartilage and tissue damage. He had to learn to walk again, pushing through the pain with his physical therapists.
After so many people died, Handschuh said he felt he "would be disappointing their memory by laying around and feeling sorry for myself."
He started to hear from strangers, who called and wrote, "people I never met wishing me well.
"Believe me the good wishes, the concern, the good thoughts, so much can help with the healing process," he said.
Nine months after he was injured, Handschuh went back to the Daily News. And a few months after that, he was out shooting again.
Although he spent years covering police and fire for the Daily News, now, he says, "I can't photograph anyone dead or dying."
But on Sept. 11, he will return to ground zero to photograph the 9/11 anniversary, as he has every year.
Now that 10 years have passed, he says he still has occasional aches and pains -- the titanium rod in his right leg will remain there for the rest of his life. But he no longer uses a cane, and "my general feeling is just shut the 'f' up and be thankful you're alive."
For Handschuh, 9/11 will always be timeless.
"Ten years is an arbitrary number. It was 10 minutes ago, it was a year ago. I look out the window on beautiful day and something brings me right back to that day," he said. "I can't drive past the buildings without feeling a knot in my stomach, a tear in my eye for friends that were lost."
He still lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children. His 15-year-old son wants to be a fireman.
It was difficult, he said, for everyone to understand what had happened that day. When it came to his kids, he tried to provide, "patient explanation, good strong hugs, and an honest appraisal of what was going on to the best of our understanding."
In addition to working for the Daily News, about two years ago Handschuh started a travel website called flyingmanatee.com and is also on the board of the DART society, an organization that supports journalists involved in traumatic situations.
"It's important everyone take a look at themselves everyday and No. 1, be thankful you're alive -- No. 2, do something for someone else," he said.
|The Three Firefighters|
When William "Billy" Eisengrein and two fellow firefighters raised a U.S. flag above the rubble at ground zero on 9/11 they had no idea they were being photographed, but that picture quickly became well-known around the world.
Now, after years of silence, Eisengrein spoke about 9/11, and that "moment of time with three guys" that still remains a symbol of America's strength and resilience.
"From the moment the picture was published, it has lived a life of its own," said photographer Thomas E. Franklin of the New Jersey Bergen Record, who took the picture of the firemen.
Today, Eisengrein -- pictured on the far right -- is 47 years old and still a firefighter. His arms are covered in tattoos: on his right, a clearly visible image of the Twin Towers, inked in 2002.
He spoke at length with ABCNews.com in August.
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