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How iconic 9/11 photo brought two strangers together

How iconic 9/11 photo brought two strangers together

Years after the 9/11 attacks, the woman in one of the tragedy's most harrowing photos has become close friends with the photographer.

The woman in one of the most iconic photos taken during 9/11 has become close friends with the photographer years after the attacks.

Today (Sunday, September 11) marks 21 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and 21 years since a haunting, iconic photo by Phil Penman was captured.

Penman, and one of the women in the photo, Joanna Capestro, became close friends after meeting years later.


Joanna, a 39-year-old office worker at the time, was in the World Trade Center, on the 87th floor of the north tower, when the first plane hit.

American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767, crashed into her office building at 8:46 in the morning.

She recounted: "I was standing by my desk and boom, the plane hit.”

After the attacks, she fled with a colleague, both covered in dust and debris.

This was the moment that was captured by photographer Phil Penman, on what was supposed to be his day off.

Years after the photo was taken, Penman's photos were displayed at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum exhibit in 2015.

The curator of the exhibit was who recognised Capestro, and fatefully connected her to the man that had captured one of the most profound moments of her life on camera.


The two told their respective stories to The Today Show, in a heartfelt tribute to how their friendship has helped them heal.

Joanna thinks the photo, and Phil, were a huge part of her healing following the traumatic ordeal.

She described just how much Phil means to her: "I tell him all the time, 'I love you, Phil, you know, you gave me my life back. Just in a picture alone'.

“Nobody could understand that because they weren't there. But when they see that photo, they go, 'Well, now I know what she went through'. The picture tells us a thousand words.”

As the world still struggles to heal following the tragedy, Capestro described the years it took to overcome the trauma, and how she dealt with survivor’s guilt.

She said: "I really felt so different from that moment on and it took me many years to heal.

"Post-traumatic stress disorder is not easy. Living with survivor's guilt was not easy. But I have to say when I turned the corner, I owe a lot of it to Phil Penman.”

Featured Image Credit: Today Show/Phil Penman

Topics: US News