54-year-old William G. Biggart first heard about the World Trade Center terrorist attacks from a passing taxi driver. News that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center prompted Biggart to rush to his apartment near Union Square and grab three of his cameras – two film and one digital. He then walked two miles to the center not knowing the next couple of hours would be the last moments of his life.
As Biggart walked toward the burning towers, he shot photographs of the event from various angles. He arrived at the building complex and amidst fire trucks and emergency personnel, situated himself near the North Tower where he could shoot nearly straight up at the burning structures. At 9:29 AM, he captured historic photos of the South Tower’s collapse and the devastation all around him. He continued taking pictures of the North Tower as it burned. Around 10:00 AM, his wife called Biggart on his cellphone to check on his safety. He told her to not worry – he would wrap up and meet her in 20 minutes at his studio. His wife recalls his last words to her:
“I’m safe. I’m with the firemen.”
New York Post photographer Bolivar Arellano remembers seeing Biggart photographing the second tower just moments before it fell. He recalls that at the time, Biggart was closer to the burning tower than any other photographer and in his opinion, closer than Arellano felt was safe. Bill Biggart took his last photograph at 10:28:24 AM, about 20 minutes after his phone call with his wife. At 10:28, just seconds after Biggart snapped his last photograph, the North Tower collapsed raining rock and steel debris on Biggart who was killed instantly.
In the days following the event, Biggart was reported among the missing. Four days later, his body and camera equipment was recovered from the World Trade Tower debris. Biggart had taken over 300 photographs of the event of which 154 were recovered from the badly damaged equipment.
Biggart’s photographs have become iconic representations of the historical event and thanks to his staunch perseverance and overwhelming desire to “get the best shot”, he captured one final picture that no one else would ever catch. His last photograph was presented as a highlight of the 2002 exhibit at the National Museum of American History. Biggart’s iconic photographic collection can be viewed at http://www.billbiggart.com/.