On September 11, 2001, during the 9/11 attacks, NASA astronaut Frank Culbertson took this photo from the International Space Station (ISS) of smoke rising from the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.

NASA Astronaut Frank Culbertson was the only American off the planet during the 9/11 attacks

Expedition 3 Commander Frank Culbertson was aboard the International Space Station at the time of the 9/11 attacks, and the only American on the crew. As soon as he learned of the attacks, he began documenting the horrible event in photographs because, at the time, the space station was flying over the New York City area.

He captured incredible images in the minutes and hours following the attacks. From his unique vantage point in space, he also recorded his thoughts of the world changing beneath him.

9/11 attacks on Twin Towers from space
Visible from space, a smoke plume rises from the Manhattan area after two planes crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center. This photo was taken by NASA astronaut Frank Culbertson. It shows metropolitan New York City (and other parts of New York as well as New Jersey) on the morning of September 11, 2001, during the 9/11 attacks. Photo: NASA
9/11 attacks on Twin Towers from space
9/11 attacks from space: Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, New York, during the 9/11 attacks on September 11, 2001. This is the focused version of the photo above. Photo: NASA

The following day, Culbertson posted a public letter that captured his initial thoughts of the events as they unfolded.

“The world changed today. What I say or do is very minor compared to the significance of what happened to our country today when it was attacked.”

“It’s horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point. The dichotomy of being on a spacecraft dedicated to improving life on the earth and watching life being destroyed by such willful, terrible acts is jolting to the psyche, no matter who you are.”

Video: Astronaut Frank Culbertson Remembers 9/11

Expedition 3 Commander Frank Culbertson says “it’s important for people to continue to learn the lessons from the tragedy of September 11 and make ourselves a better nation”.

Culbertson was aboard the International Space Station at the time of the attacks, and the only American off the planet. He captured incredible images of New York City in the minutes and hours following the event.

NASA Astronaut Frank Culbertson Remembers 9/11 attacks

Sources

M. Özgür Nevres

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