9/11: Then and now – 19 years later

Each August and September, as summer fades into fall, photographer Gordon Donovan finds himself in a familiar spot — snapping images in the area where the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place. “I do it because I love the city, the history of the city and how we’re not going to be put down,” explained Donovan, who was born and raised on Staten Island and watched the twin towers being built from across the harbor.

But his photos aren’t random shots of the evolving downtown landscape. He returns to document the exact scenes of many memorable images taken by photojournalists that awful day in 2001. “It’s fascinating to see how it has changed over the years, because it was just this big pile of rubble the first time I went down there, about a week afterward,” said Donovan, then a graphic artist at CBS News, who was at work on the Upper West Side the morning of the attack.

Today a memorial and museum honor the nearly 3,000 people killed. The area also includes a recently opened transportation hub, and there are other signs of development yet to come. “Now you can’t even recognize what happened,” Donovan said. “What they’ve done down there is beautiful and just revitalized the whole area after such tragedy and brought it back to life.”

Donovan’s then-and-now project, he said, is a testament to the city’s strength and an opportunity to share the changes with New Yorkers who may have moved away over the past 19 years. He said his project also honors the photojournalists who took the original images on 9/11. This year during the COVID-19 pandemic has reminders of 2001 with the absence of tourists and workers as people who are visible can be seen wearing protective masks.

Drag the slider across each pair of images to see changes in the New York City landscape.


Looking downtown from Rockefeller Center

THEN: The twin towers of the World Trade Center burn behind the Empire State Building, Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Marty Lederhandler/AP)
NOW: One World Trade Center is seen towering above the landscape in lower Manhattan behind the Empire State Building, Aug. 30, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


The Brooklyn Pier

THEN: The twin towers of the World Trade Center burn behind the Empire State Building, Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Marty Lederhandler/AP)
NOW: No tourists or sightseers taking photographs of the New York City skyline from Pier 1 at the Brooklyn Bridge Park across the East River on Aug. 25, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


Trinity Church Steeple

THEN: Smoke spews from a tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 after two hijacked airplanes hit the twin towers in a terrorist attack on New York City. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NOW: Before 9/11, the original World Trade Center towers could be seen from the Trinity Church Cemetery in Lower Manhattan, Sept. 8, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


Across the East River

THEN: Smoke billows from the towers of the World Trade Center in New York, Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Jim Collins/AP)
NOW: The New York City skyline is seen from under the Brooklyn Bridge on the East River on Sept. 8, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


Nassau Street

THEN: People stand in the street in the area where the World Trade Center buildings collapsed Sept. 11, 2001 after two airplanes slammed into the twin towers after a terrorist attack. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NOW: Construction on Fulton Street at Nassau Street just down the street from the World Trade Center site, Aug. 23, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


Fulton Street

THEN: People run from the collapse of one of the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Suzanne Plunkett/AP)
NOW: Nineteen years after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, a modern subway hub on Fulton Street connects to the World Trade Center, Aug. 23, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


Engine on Murray Street

THEN: A peice of debris, possibly from one of the crashed airliners, is roped off by investigators near the World Trade Center site in New York, Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: AP)
NOW: Renovations are complete on the building where the engine landed on the corner of Church and Murray Streets several blocks away from the World Trade Center site on Aug. 25, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


Across the Brooklyn Bridge

THEN: Women wearing dust masks flee from Manhattan to Brooklyn on the Brooklyn Bridge following the collapse of both World Trade Center towers, Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP)
NOW: People cross the Brooklyn Bridge on a beautiful day in New York City on Sept. 8, 2020. The dangers here photographing with tourists and fellow New Yorkers buzzing by on bicycles. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


World Financial Center

THEN: People evacuate the World Financial Center after it was hit by two planes Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)
NOW: Pedestrians walk through the courtyard just outside of Brookfield Place (originally known as the World Financial Center) in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 8, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


Subway on Cortlandt Street

THEN: A destroyed subway station near Ground Zero on the evening of Sept. 12, after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. (Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP)
NOW: Traffic along Church Street passes the Cortlandt Street subway station on Aug. 23, 2020 across the street from Three World Trade Center. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


Church Street Soldiers

THEN: National guardsmen march past the wreckage of the World Trade Center towers in New York, Sept. 13, 2001. (Photo: Stephen Chernin/AP)
NOW: Only a few people can be seen on Church Street across from the Oculus on Aug. 23, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


Firemen on Cortlandt Street

THEN: With the skeleton of the World Trade Center twin towers in the background, New York City firefighters work amid debris on Cortlandt Street after the terrorist attacks in this photo taken Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP)
NOW: People walk along the tiled wall on Cortlandt Street across from the World Trade Center site on Aug. 26, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


World Trade Center survivors covered in dust

THEN: People struggle through debris near the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Gulnara Samoilova/AP)
NOW: Pedestrians make their way along Fulton Street next to St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church on Aug. 23, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


Fire truck covered in debris

THEN: A fire truck is surrounded by dust and debris near the site of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Bernadette Tuazon/AP)
NOW: Debris has been cleared on Greenwich and Rector Streets as people enjoy a summer day in New York City on Sept. 8, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


McDonalds on Broadway

THEN: A street near ground zero on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001 after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. (Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP)
NOW: Businesses such as McDonald’s are open on lower Broadway on Sept. 8, 2020, as construction continues near the World Trade Center site. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


Brooks Brothers covered in rubble

THEN: A destroyed Brooks Brothers store near Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001 after the terrorist attack. (Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP)
NOW: A woman sits on the steps the now closed Brooks Brothers and new Amazon store on Church St. in New York City, Aug. 23, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


Garage Entrance on Beekman


THEN: Pedestrians on Beekman St. flee the area of the collapsed World Trade Center in lower Manhattan following a terrorist attack on the New York landmark, Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Amy Sancetta/AP)
NOW: Pedestrians walk past a parking garage on Beekman Street in Lower Manhattan on Aug. 23, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


The North Tower

THEN: Firefighters pour water on the still smoldering wreckage at Ground Zero where the remains of New York’s World Trade Center stand, Sept. 27, 2001.(Photo: Kathy Willens/AP)
NOW: A view of Lower Manhattan from one of two reflecting pools at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum where the original One World Trade Center once stood, on Aug. 23, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


World Trade Center Skeleton

THEN: The remains of the World Trade Center stand amid the debris following the terrorist attack, Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Alexandre Fuchs/AP)
NOW: Traffic is light heading downtown on West Street past the World Trade Center on Sept. 8, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


The South Tower

THEN: Remains of the facade of Two World Trade Center are all that stands on the World Trade Center site, Sept. 12, 2001. (Photo: AP)
NOW: No visitors are seen at one of reflecting pools at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum on Aug. 23, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


The Sphere at the World Trade Center

THEN: Fritz Koenig’s “The Sphere,” a 25-ton sculpture that once graced the plaza at the World Trade Center, lies in the wreckage following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. (Photo: Shawn Baldwin/AP)
NOW: “The Sphere” rests at its new home across from the World Trade Center buildings and National September 11 Memorial & Museum on Aug. 25, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


Vesey Street covered in debris

THEN: A firefighter walks amid the rubble near the base of the destroyed World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Peter Morgan/Reuters)
NOW: People walk along the Federal Building on Vesey Street with One World Trade Center in the background, Aug. 23, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


West Street

THEN: A destroyed vehicles on Sept. 12, 2001, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. (Photo: AP)
NOW: West Street looking downtown across from the World Trade Center site on Sept. 8, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


WTC Street subway

THEN: A destroyed subway station near Ground Zero on the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. (Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP)
NOW: The downtown entrance of WTC Subway 1 train station that reopened in 2018 in New York City on Aug. 23, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


Broadway from Maiden Lane looking down Cortlandt Street

THEN: The skeleton of one of the twin towers is seen as emergency personal keep the area secure on Sept. 19, 2001. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
NOW: Pedestrians walk across Broadway at the intersection of Cortlandt Street just down the street from the World Trade Center site in New York City, Sept. 7, 2020. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)


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