Each August and September, as summer fades into fall, Yahoo News photographer Gordon Donovan finds himself in a familiar spot — snapping images in the area where the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place 16 years ago.
“I do it because I love the city, the history of the city and how we’re not going to be put down,” explained Donovan, who was born and raised on Staten Island and watched the twin towers being built from across the harbor.
But his photos aren’t random shots of the evolving downtown landscape. He returns to document the exact scenes of many memorable images taken by photojournalists that tragic day in 2001.
PHOTOS: 9/11: Then and now – 16 years later »
“It’s fascinating to see how it has changed over the years, because it was just this big pile of rubble the first time I went down there, about a week afterward,” said Donovan, then a graphic artist at CBS News, who was at work on the Upper West Side the morning of the attack.
Today a memorial and museum honor the nearly 3,000 people killed. The area also includes a recently opened transportation hub, and there are other signs of development yet to come.
“Now you can’t even recognize what happened,” Donovan said. “What they’ve done down there is beautiful and just revitalized the whole area after such tragedy and brought it back to life.”
Donovan’s then-and-now project, he said, is also a testament to the city’s strength and an opportunity to share the changes with New Yorkers who may have moved away over the past 16 years. He said his project also honors the photojournalists who took the original images on 9/11.
Drag the slider across each pair of images to see changes in the New York City landscape.
World Trade Center skeleton
2001: The remains of the World Trade Center stand amid the debris following the terrorist attack on the building in New York, Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Alexandre Fuchs/AP)
2017: The World Trade Center buildings and National September 11 Memorial & Museum are seen from West Street on Aug. 12, 2017. (Photo: Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)
Looking downtown from the ‘Top of the Rock’
2001: The twin towers of the World Trade Center burn behind the Empire State Building, Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Patrick Sison/AP)
2017: One World Trade Center towers above the landscape in lower Manhattan behind the Empire State Building, Sept. 1, 2017. (Photo: Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)
Subway stop on Cortlandt Street
2001: A destroyed subway station near Ground Zero on the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. (Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP)
2017: Traffic along Church Street passes the Cortlandt Street subway station on Aug. 12, 2017, across the street from Three World Trade Center. (Photo: Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)
World Financial Center
2001: The front of the World Financial Center is covered in debris in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. (Photo: Shawn Baldwin/AP)
2017: People walk and ride their bikes down the Hudson River Greenway across from the World Trade Center site on Aug. 20, 2017. (Photo: Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)
Greenwich Street covered in debris
2001: A fire truck is surrounded by dust and debris near the site of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Bernadette Tuazon/AP)
2017: On Greenwich and Rector Streets, people enjoy a fine New York summer day, Sept. 5, 2017. (Photo: Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)
World Trade Center survivors covered in dust
2001: People struggle through debris near the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo: Gulnara Samoilova/AP)
2017: Pedestrians make their way along Fulton Street next to St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church on Aug. 16, 2017. (Photo: Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)