Aaron McLamb was only 20 when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He had the rare fortune of having his camera with him when the attacks were carried out.
That is how he managed to get the photo of ladder 118 during the September 11 attack, forever honoring the bravery of six heroic New York firefighters. Ladder 118 was one of the fire trucks that responded to the disaster that followed the deadly attack.
Aaron managed to catch a photo of the truck as its crew rushed to carry out their last mission. Here is the photo of ladder 118 during the September 11 attack that Aaron took.
The first plane crashed into the North Tower just as Aaron got to his workplace. After 18 minutes, he watched in horror as the second plane crashed into the South Tower, between the 77th and the 85th floor.
Aaron worked on the 10th floor of a building near the Brooklyn Bridge, so he had a chance to see what was happening from a safe distance. The vantage point also allowed him to take the photo of ladder 118 during the September 11 attack.
In the iconic photo of Ladder 118 on September 11, the firetruck on the bridge can be seen rushing towards the scene of the attack. At the time, dark, menacing clouds of smoke were howling from the Twin Towers.
Six Men Were In The Truck When Aaron Took The Photo Of Ladder 118 During The September 11 Attack
The Ladder 118 truck had come from the Middagh St. firehouse. It had been called to help during the disaster after the second plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
Six firefighters, Vernon Cherry, Leon Smith, Joey Agnello, Pete Vega, Robert Regan, and Scott Davidson, quickly got into the fire truck and drove towards the Twin Towers.
49-year-old Vernon Cherry planned on retiring that year, having worked as a fireman for nearly 30 years. In addition to being one of the few Black firefighters in the city at the time, he was also a great singer.
Leon Smith, who was also a Black firefighter, had been with the New York Fire Department since 1982.
Joseph Agnello, a father of two boys, was close to his 36th birthday. Robert Regan was initially a civil engineer but had switched careers to spend more time with his daughter.
Pete Vega had started his career in the U.S. Air Force. He became a firefighter in 1995 after being honorably discharged.
Scott Davidson, the father of Pete Davidson, Saturday Night Live star, became a firefighter in 1994. Davidson was famous for his humor, big heart, and love for Christmas.
Pete Davidson was 7 when his father died in the tragedy. He had his badge number, 8418, tattooed on him as a way to honor him and his heroism.
These were the brave ill-fated men heading towards the World Trade Center when Aaron took the photo of ladder 118 during the September 11 attack. Aaron printed Bibles at a facility operated by Jehovah's Witness, and he had put his work on hold to see what was happening across the bridge.
Aaron Soon Developed The Photo Of Ladder 118 During The September 11 Attack
Aaron always dreamed of being a fireman when he was young, and he knew the Middagh St. firehouse and admired its trucks. In fact, when he took the photo of ladder 118 during the September 11 attack, he was eagerly waiting to see the truck cross the bridge.
He even told a colleague, "here comes the 118." So, he was happy to capture a picture of the rig, not knowing the crew members would not be making it back from the disaster they were rushing to help resolve.
Aaron soon developed the photo of ladder 118 during the September 11 attack and took it to the firehouse, where the firefighters immediately recognized Ladder 118.
They studied it with a magnifying glass to confirm if the truck on the Brooklyn Bridge was indeed Ladder 118. It did not take long for them to verify that it was after noticing the orange stokes basket, which was upside down, and a saw box that jutted out. These were all Ladder 118 trademarks.
One of the firefighters recalls how chilling the experience was. Aaron passed the photo to New York Daily News, and they published it on their front page.
For that reason, the photo of ladder 118 during the September 11 attack is now seen as a proud symbol of patriotism during the terrifying tragedy.
What Really Happened To Ladder 118?
Of the six firefighters inside the truck when Aaron took the photo of ladder 118 during the September 11 attack, none made it out of the daring mission alive. Nevertheless, by the time they met their fate, they had helped many people find safety.
The truck pulled up at the Marriott World Trade Center hotel, and they ran up the stairs while helping people get away from the disaster area.
According to a mechanic at the hotel, the men had no intention of leaving until they had helped everyone to get out of the doomed building. It was estimated that they saved a few hundred people on that day, including the mechanic's life.
In the end, more than 900 hotel guests were rescued. Unfortunately, the Twin Towers eventually collapsed and killed hundreds of firefighters, including the six men who arrived on Ladder 118.
As the firefighters were evacuating people, the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed on the hotel and killed them along with many others. That gave the photo of ladder 118 during the September 11 attack so much meaning because it showed their final moments alive.
The towers collapsed due to the fires that caused sagging on the floors, which in turn pulled on the perimeter columns, forcing them to bow and buckle.
Five of the firefighters' bodies were retrieved after some months. They were found close to each other, so Agnello, Vega, and Cherry ended up getting buried in adjacent plots. The body of the sixth fireman was retrieved after several weeks.
Many Firefighters Lost Their Lives Due To 9/11
Even though the existence of the photo of ladder 118 during the September 11 attack makes the six firefighters quite famous for their sacrifice, a lot of firefighters died during the disaster.
In fact, in addition to the six men, two other firefighters from the same firehouse, Robert Wallace and Martin Egan, also died on that day. They are still remembered at the firehouse to this day.
Even though Ladder 118 lost six members, Engine 54 lost 15 members during the 9/11 attacks, making it the firehouse that lost the most during the terrorist attack.
A total of 75 firehouses throughout the city responded to the crisis, representing more than 200 fire units. By the end of the disaster, 345 firefighters had died.
In total, 40 New York Fire Department trucks were destroyed during the 9/11 attacks.
The 9/11 tragedy resulted in the death of 2,977 people and caused more than 6,000 injuries. The 19 hijackers responsible for the attack also died in the murder-suicide. Among them was Brian Sweeney, who left his wife a heart-wrenching message.
According to a 2019 report, 200 firefighters had succumbed to illnesses they contracted due to the attacks on the World Trade Center. The clean-up process took nine months, and 1,8 million tons of wreckage had to be cleaned up.
The Photo Of Ladder 118 During The September 11 Attack Still Means A Lot To This Day
Strangely, 118 was recovered even though none of its crew members survived. It was then cleaned up and installed with new windows before being put back in service. However, it was only used for a few months before replacing it with a new fire truck in 2002.
At the time it was replaced, it still had dents it got from debris falling on it. The fender of the cab had also contracted permanent damage, and the tiller box was ruined.
The replacement truck was again replaced in 2013.
Ten years after Aaron took the photo of ladder 118 during the September 11 attack, he struggled with survivor's guilt and avoided conversations about the event. Later, he realized there was little he could have done to change the fate that befell the heroic firefighters.
He is still excited about firefighting, having come to terms with what he went through.
Aaron also loves that the photo of ladder 118 during the September 11 attack serves as a lasting tribute to the brave firefighters who gave their lives to save hundreds of people on that day.
Aaron also takes pride in the fact that the firefighters kept going even though they knew the danger they would face. In the end, 900 hotel guests were saved from the disaster. Many of them would have perished if they had been in the hotel when the tower collapsed.
Four skyscrapers have so far replaced the destroyed Twin Towers, and at least two more are expected to be put up in the future, including a memorial and a museum that will commemorate those who died in the attacks.
Otherwise, the photo of ladder 118 during the attacks is still considered one of the most powerful tributes to the responders who died while trying to save everyone else from the 9/11 disaster.