For Professor Thomas Franklin, a new professor to the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University, the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 has a special impact. Not only was Franklin present at the site of the World Trade Center’s collapse, but he is the photojournalist behind one of the most famous photographs depicting the horrific events of that tragic day.
Franklin has been a photojournalist for almost 30 years and after the planes crashed into the Twin Towers on 9/11, he took a boat across the Hudson River from Hackensack to New York City to document what was happening for The Record, a newspaper based in Bergen County. The well-known photo he captured that day is called “Raising the Flag at Ground Zero,” and shows three firefighters raising an American flag while surrounded by the ruin that was the World Trade Center.
The photograph’s impact goes far beyond depicting the scene after the towers fell. The U.S. Postal Service featured a stamp with the photograph on it, known as the Heroes stamp and the $10 million proceeds from this stamp were donated to the families of the rescuers who died saving others as well as those who were permanently disabled by the attack.
In 2002, Franklin’s flag-raising photograph earned him a place as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography. His photo also earned a spot on Life Magazine’s list of “100 Photographs That Changed the World” and has become a permanent part of the photograph collection of the Library of Congress.
Franklin’s coverage on Sept. 11 was not the first experience he had dealing with fast-paced or tragic events. He has covered the Super Bowl, presidential events, the World Series, natural disasters and much more, all of which provided him with the necessary skills to respond to the tragedy of 9/11.
As Franklin states, “It’s what we do as photojournalists; we photograph news. It was my responsibility to document that day and that’s what I did. I wasn’t going to become emotionally impaired while covering this event. I was very aware of the importance of what I was doing by taking pictures and documenting what I saw.”
As a professor, Franklin intends to share the knowledge he has gained in his experience working as an active journalist. He believes in the power of photography and is excited to work with future journalists.
The events that occurred on September 11, 2001 were devastating, but in a world where this level of violence exists, these are the photos that are necessary to document history. As Franklin put it, “As horrific as it was, my job was to take pictures. It’s as simple as that.”