"Bill was killed when the second building came down, and he was
crushed under all the debris. I don't know if he jumped back under the
underpass, or whether the direct debris killed him. We know in his
last picture he was working to the very end, and that's telling of the
commitment he had to his work." Cip East.
||Bill was one of 51
journalists killed in 2001 whose names were added to the Journalists
Memorial. The memorial underwent its annual rededication with the new
names May 3. Wendy Doremus, Bill's wife of 21 years, spoke during the
ceremony, a number of family members attended. The memorial now
includes more than 1,400 names. 2001 was the worst year since 1995 for
journalist fatalities -- mainly due to assassinations and murders.
East was staring intensely at his laptop screen.
It was two weeks after two jetliners had plowed into the towers of the
World Trade Center. His good friend, photojournalist Bill Biggart's body
had been recovered from the rubble. His personal effects, including his
cameras had been released by authorities to his widow, Wendy.
Biggart. a photographer, who had worked for an alternative New York
picture agency, had been carrying three cameras with him, when he left his
home in Manhattan that sparkling Tuesday morning, and started walking
south towards the plumes of smoke. There were two Canon EOS1s film cameras.
He was also carrying his Canon D30 digital camera. For Biggart, mastering
the new techniques of digital photography had been a break-through.
When Chip East was handed the bag containing Biggart's gear by his widow,
Wendy, he was convinced that no pictures had survived. The avalanche of
falling debris had blown off the backs of the two film cameras. There were
several rolls of film in Biggart's bag; however, the lids of the film
canisters had been peeled back, allowing light to fall into the cassettes.
Finally, East turned his attention to the digital camera. It was covered
by ash. The lens had been sheared off at the flange. But when he opened
the chamber that held the compact flash card, it was pristine.
He slipped the flash card into his computer reader, and tried to open it.
At first, it refused to open, East kept mumbling, "come onScome on!" He
rebooted his computer, and suddenly three folders opened on his desktop.
They contained all the last images that Bill Biggart would ever take.
Now, looking at the photographs, it is possible to retrace Biggart's last
hour of life, as he works his way ever closer to Ground Zero.
|Here, Chip East takes over the story:
"As you scroll through 150 pictures or so, you are not only just looking
at a guy on the street making deliberate pictures, but they are framed a
certain way, tells us something about the photographer as well. In this
first frame we see trees, and the buildings in Manhattan framing the
burning World Trade Center. I think a lot of people would have
photographed that tight, and looked at just the main story. But to see it
framed by a part of New York as he was walking through Greenwitch Village
is somewhat symbolic of Bill Biggart and how he made pictures. Also, the
fact that he was from New York, and with trees in the pictures, I don't
know, maybe it is inferring too much, but it means a lot to see foliage,
and to see one of his other passions (trees) in the first pictures.
"As I looked at them for the first time, it wasn't just the pictures, but
I was looking around and listening to those of us who were at Bill’s
studio. Hearing Bill's wife, Wendy, saying things like, ‘Oh Damn, Bill,
why are you so close;?’ really meant something too. Here we were two weeks
after he was killed, and she was still talking to him, through his
"As you get there,
the unique angle of looking straight up at the buildings, you never saw
that from anybody else. As you go through the timestamps, the cloud of
dust comes towards you. You just see this massive cloud framed with fire
trucks and police cars, and firemen and policemen.
"So we are looking
at the cloud coming towards Bill and the 30 seconds worth of pictures that
Newsweek did from 9:59:10 to 10:00:08, which is basically when the first
cloud covered him. In the pictures, he frames up when the cloud is right
on him, and you still have the North tower, framed right in there.
"He is going closer and closer, as you go through, you see peoples
reaction, and you see how people are handling all this... every one of
Bill's pictures are about people and how they are reacting to this story.
We need to remind ourselves this story isn't about buildings, but about
how people are effected by the loss of these structures.
"So we track through to the end, and we see the second to the last frame.
He is moving forward, he is walking down West street, and he is moving
towards the pedestrian overpass connecting the World Trade Center and the
World Financial Center. Bill is getting closer and closer, and you see
more firemen and fire trucks and the second to the last frame you see
policemen, and fire trucks under the overpass.
"And then you see the last frame that nobody else will ever have. You see
the honeycomb pieces of the first building... and we see half of the hotel
that was destroyed as well. After the second building fell, the hotel, the
Marriott I think, was gone. You see it cut in half from what fell from the
first building and it is time stamped 10:28 and 24 seconds. Basically that
time stamp is the end, because at 10:30 is when the second building came